Thursday, November 3, 2011

Inside the O-R!

A few weekends ago I was blessed with a great experience. I had the privilege of being a part of an incredible mission, and I still feel so grateful. The Friends of Barnabas OMF surgical team came down, and I already shared about translating at the pre-op clinic on their first day. That weekend I rode with Melvin and Denia into Siguatapeque and spent the day translating at the hospital. Incredible! I enjoyed it so much I returned to translate Sunday, spent the night and translated again on Monday. The timing worked out swimmingly as it conveniently coincided with the school's observance of Día del Soldado (or de las Fuerzas Armadas, I got mixed responses to that question) and I had Monday free from classes. Staying the night away was exciting in itself, but I enjoyed getting to work with such a neat team. I had never been inside an operating room, so that was crazy. There's a picture floating around of me in full scrubs, including foot booties, funny hair bonnet and face mask, so keep an eye out for that.

I stopped by the Barnabas House Friday night to visit with Nancy, and it was the perfect start to an awesome weekend. Nancy's original plan was to head to Sigua Friday morning to be with the team, and I was honestly a little bummed I couldn't join her! Darn school and responsibilities :) After school I learned Nancy was unable to leave and likely wouldn't be going until Sunday, so I headed to the house to spend some time with her. She's so friendly I felt like I'd known her for years, but we'd only just met so I am glad we had some time to chat just us. We spent a few hours talking about life and experiences, and I had a great time sharing and connecting with her. It's really nice to realize my openness has a place down here. In the States I sometimes felt like I pushed the boundaries with how open I am, but here people seem to talk freely about almost anything. Nancy and I aren't Honduran of course, but when in Rome I guess. While I was at the House I coordinated a ride to Sigua for the morning, and was up bright and early to take in a new city. Melvin Martinez drove us out to the hospital, and drove a bus of post-op kids and their parents (mostly moms but a few papas) back to the Foundation for recovery. He returned at the end of the day with a bus full of the next day's surgeries, and took Denia and I back to Peña. What a busy day of driving back and forth for him! But it was so great getting to know him better on the rides, so I'm glad he's so willing to work. We chatted some about the Bible, and he talked about a few of the books I should read. He told me snippets of stories from them, suggested I read them as tarea (homework) and I told him I'd let him know if I had any questions. [As an aside, of course I had questions, and it's a neat experience to be learning so much. Melvin is a dear, sweet man, and I look forward to getting to know he and his family better. I'm going to start some English lessons with the staff come the new year, so that's exciting too!]
Denia scopes out the sanitized equipment.
Denia and I were the first to arrive, so we checked on the previous day's patients, made sure all the parents were hanging in there and greeted the nurses. Everyone at the hospital was so friendly. The woman in charge ended up chatting with us for a long while. The hospital is mission funded and set back off a long dirt road. It shares property with a bilingual school and orphanage, both projects in the beginning stages but headed towards something spectacular. We talked school for a while, and it was neat to hear about another bilingual school. We exchanged emails to swap ideas and resources over the next year. I think she said the school goes up to third grade right now, and that their current plan is to add a grade a year--it's cute to think of the school growing with its students. Their plan for the orphanage is pretty fantastic. The goal is to have somewhere between six and twelve homes for children (it was a long weekend, so I'm having trouble remembering the numbers perfectly...) with a loving couple living in each. They also intend to have a home for widows on the property, and the children will come to know the widows as grandparents. My eyes got misty when I heard people talking about it. I've never thought of establishing a program like that, but it seems so perfect when you think about it. That way no one has to feel alone, and everyone gets to experience a sense of purpose of sorts. I find something very poetic about having a home for youth and a home for elderly sharing land and becoming family. It has me wondering if anything like that exists in the States, and if not I wonder what it would take to make it happen.

Before I knew it the team was arriving (with a yummy breakfast for us from the restaurant at their hotel!) and I was changing into scrubs. It felt so surreal being surrounded by all the surgeons and getting pulled to translate for parents/families/nurses about all sorts things that come along with surgery. It was neat talking to some of the same parents I'd met on Wednesday and getting to see the kids again. I think the coolest part by far was the look on a parent's face when they saw their baby for the first time post-op. For some of the kids this was their second, third or fourth surgery, and for others it was the first of many. Parents of the first-timers had the most staggering reactions, as most of them at first couldn't do much but hold their babies with a steady stream of tears running down. The look on their faces when they saw their babies with upper lips para la primera vez was just incredible.

The kids and their families were so brave, and I had the chance to translate some pretty powerful moments. I found the pre-op interview with the anesthesiologist interesting, but comforting the kids/parents was probably my favorite part of translating. Giving the comforting hug, or chineando (holding) the babies who were having a hard time made me so grateful for my ever-developing spanish ability. Chet, one of the anesthesiologists, gave me the neatest task. With the older kids he talked to them about blowing up a balloon while they had the mask on to inhale the initial anesthesia, and he asked me to translate. It was so neat to get face to face with these kids in the operating room, and encourage them while they huff and puff and try to inflate this green 'balloon' preparing for surgery. One of my little guys was wearing a bracelet he'd made, and the knot came untied as he was laying back on the table. We collected each little bead and tucked them securely into the pocket of my scrub top (have I talked about how comfortable the scrubs were?). I told him I'd hang on to the beads until after his surgery, and his mom received a restrung bracelet to give him once he calmed down after surgery. I was pretty proud of myself for how well I handled being inside the OR. The first day I was so nervous, and only went in for a few minutes, but I warmed up to it as the weekend went on. Monday I stared down into the inside of a kid's mouth while two oral surgeons went to work. Crazy stuff!

Confession--there were so many incredible moments throughout the weekend, and I'm having a hard time getting them all coherent or organized, and deciding which ones I might not really need to type. Let me see if I can break it down to a few highlights. This brigada was made of some pretty awesome people, and I am so happy to have met them. A lot of them are from Virginia, so we said we'd have to keep in touch over the next year. They had a neat element to the team--an art room! Artists travel with them and bring an unimaginable amount of art supplies. They had different project ideas every day, but the kids (and parents!) basically got to do whatever their hearts desired. It was such a neat space. They hung the kids' artwork around the walls and down the hallway which made for an uplifting addition to the hospital walls. It was so special to watch the families spend time together around the art tables. You could really witness the healing powers of creative outlets. How neat to turn a waiting room into a creative haven. On the last day they spoiled me with two fat bags of art supplies, which was unexpected and greatly appreciated. Two of the patients had to have hip grafts, which led to some painful recovery. They weren't allowed to go back to the Barnabas House until they could walk around, which seemed to be a hard task. Getting to hold sweet Yessi's hands while she took her first pained steps trying to get discharged was so special. Her tiny hands squeezed mine so tight as we set off to walk around the hospital. The first place she wanted to go was outside, and seemed to come alive when the fresh air brushed her face.

When Keysi went back for surgery she was a mess of tears. It was something around her fourth surgery, and hopefully her last, but she was all worked up and that got her mom all kinds of worked up. Not long after they took her back I noticed her mom in this dark, secluded part of the hospital sitting in a cry so hard she was rocking. Me being me I couldn't not go into that room, and the moment we shared will remain in my heart forever. I've never been known for poetic prayer, but I knelt and prayed with her. She cried about her fear for the surgery, and let out some pleading prayers as she explained to me how worried she was, and how much she hoped God wouldn't abandon her at that moment--at first I thought that was a harsh word to use, but she was praying from the heart. Something about her words really struck me. She was so genuine. So honest and open with a stranger, and even though she was (of course) worried, she was so trusting of this team of surgeons. A few of the surgeons are veterans on the OMF team, and talked about how great it has been getting to see some of the kids as they grow year after year. Keysi is one they know pretty well, so Mom knew she was in good hands.

Monday Dr. Wang (Nick) and Chanan (one of the artists, and she lives in DC!) came back with us to Peña while the rest of the group headed off for some shopping around Sigua. Nick wanted to follow-up with the patients, and Chanan wanted a little more time with Yessi. They really bonded while she was at the hospital, and I'm hoping Chanan will come back and visit us sometime over the next year. Jose and I gave them a tour of the Foundation which brought back SO many memories from my trip in March. There's such a special energy around that place. It was a great weekend for so many reasons: bonding with a team of kind hearts from the States, cultivating a friendship with Nancy, developing a relationship with Melvin Martinez, Denia and some of the other staff at the house. It is going to be such a special year.

No comments:

Post a Comment