As a board member for ReSurge, I am given the unique opportunity of joining a trip and chose the medical mission in Peru that sees a variety of deformities and injuries as my first trip. Many insights about life, personally and professionally, have emerged from this experience, so I felt compelled to offer up a window into the impact that ReSurge has here in Peru and around world. This is the first in a four part series:
For those of you not aware of ReSurge International, it is a not-for-profit that helps transform lives by restoring the health and dreams of those with deformities and injuries repairable through surgery (cleft lip and palate, burns, hand and other conditions). ReSurge works in many of the most impoverished countries on earth, serving the bottom billion of the world’s poor who have limited or no access to health care.
My heart melted
I received a chocolate heart tonight at dinner from the pediatrician, Janice, to celebrate Valentine’s Day and the first day of the ReSurge International mission in Pucallpa, Peru. The fortune — your heart will melt — said it all. My heart melted today during the first day of clinic. We saw more than 60 patients and 30 are currently approved for surgery.
The 1st day
It was a day of many firsts for me:
- Took my first moto-taxis (aka a tuk tuk for those who have been to Asia) in Pucallpa to the hospital to start the day
- Received an education from the surgeons on clefts and burns and developed a new-found respect for their patience, willingness to educate me/others and their ability to change lives
- Observed up close double- and single-cleft lips, cleft palates, and burns and formed a new appreciation for the complications and the personal heartache
- Witnessed hope live and die in many a mother’s eyes…hope at having their child seen and their tragedies “erased” as one woman articulated it…and despair as the doctors said they couldn’t help either at this time…or ever
- Some patients were not cleared for surgery due to age (too young) but mostly because of malnutrition, overall health concerns, lack of ICU capability for more intense and complicated surgeries. According to Eric, the medical team leader on the trip, this is typical.
- One particularly sad case, a mom traveled more than 4 days by boat with her 9-month-old son and 10-year-old big brother. The baby has a single cleft lip but due to an ill-timed cold, scabies, malnutrition and overall health concerns, they were informed surgery isn’t an option at this stage. The ReSurge team worked with the local health authorities to help set her up for greater success though and provide food and shelter provisions.
- Had my first vasovagal episode. (OK: for those that know me, it wasn’t my first, but it was my first watching someone else give blood. I survived without passing out and then went back into clinic.)
- My first full day of clinic ended on a high note; I was able to help a woman with severe burns on her face, neck and chest.