Wednesday we continued as before…family meetings and individual therapy for the kids who were being discharged, and individual therapy for community members who were given appointments on screening day (or who wandered in).
By late Wednesday afternoon, we were ready for one of our highlights of the week, a trip to the surgical suite. The Speech Team put on scrub caps, booties and masks, and watched the surgeons do what they do so very well.
On this trip, we were able to see some different surgeries we had not seen before. Typically when you think of a cleft lip, you think of an opening running “north to south” from the nostril on down. On this trip, we saw some clefts running “east to west” from the corner of the mouth toward the cheek, a very rare occurrence. I watched Ryan Brown, MD and Shaun Desai, MD work together to repair one of these clefts. After opening up the area, they worked on finding the muscle fibers so that they could be woven together at the corner of the mouth. This child will now be able to pucker. They also worked on making sure the muscle inside the cheek was properly connected, so that this child will now be able to smile.
I have been to surgery many times, and if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know what is coming next. I cried. I cried to think of the skill required to pull off such a surgery, and the enormity of coming to Peru to give this gift for free. Throughout the week, I am usually too busy with my own responsibilities to reflect on it, but there in surgery, it always hits me. Watching surgery can be bloody and gruesome, actually…but if you look deeper, it is a beautiful, artful thing. So yeah, that was me crying at the foot of the surgical bed. You’d think the surgeons would ban me by now.
Because of the very heavy surgical schedule, (some left as late as 11 pm) and because of Helen’s birthday, the Speech Team left the hospital early, around 5:30. A recent medical graduate who is joining us this week, Arturo, gave us a lift most of the way to our hotel, and we took a taxi from there, sardine can style. We were surprised to find out it was Arturo’s birthday as well! When I asked him about birthday gifts, he told me that watching the surgery described above was all the gift he needed this year.
So we enjoyed a festive dinner and toasted Helen, our colleagues, our patients, our new friends, and our old ones. Birthdays in Peru are quite important, with much hugging and kissing, and we hope Helen (and Arturo) celebrate many more.