Friday, July 23, 2010

Life-altering Surgery in Indonesia

Two days ago we anchored near Ternate, and our surgical teams went ashore to screen local patients for surgery on the ship. Ternate is a large city with many open-air markets and mosques. But the largest mosque, one easily spotted from the ship, sits cheek-to-jowl with a big box store that looks suspiciously like Wal-Mart. And signs announce that KFC is on its way. I love fried chicken, and I have nothing against KFC. But I’m so grateful we got here before the Colonel.

At the hospital, a crowd of people in the lobby waited patiently to be deemed appropriate candidates for surgery. Upstairs, our Project HOPE anesthesiologist somehow scored the only air-conditioned room. Dr. Patel is a man with a sense of humor he hides behind a face that, at rest, looks morose. One of his potential patients that morning looked equally glum, so Dr. Patel said to the interpreter, “Tell him we will take good care of him.” At that, the briefest of smiles flitted through the patient’s face. The smile got slightly bigger when he was cleared for surgery, and then pointed to the scheduling table. There, HOPE OR nurse Linda Crowell assisted him with the paperwork and the logistics of getting onto the ship. At her elbow was a one-page sheet of Indonesian words and phrases that she valiantly employed in her deep Southern accent.

Patients began arriving at the ship within hours of being admitted, and the operating rooms have been going full tilt for two days. Today, I was given the opportunity to observe a toddler’s cleft palate surgery, a case in which both Dr. Patel and Linda Crowell participated. The toddler is fortunate, a child who will never know the heartache surely experienced by another cleft palate patient who came to us as a young man. When he arrived on the ship two days ago, I had to look away. It hurt to think how he has suffered from this deformity his entire life.

After leaving the OR this morning, I stopped by to say hello to HOPE’s discharge nurse Vicki Bryant, and who was she discharging but our adult cleft palate patient! The transformation is nothing short of stunning. With a virtual wave of the USNS Mercy magic wand, he is now a handsome young guy, one who will certainly see the world – and be seen by the world – in a life-changing way.

Thanks for your interest in Project HOPE -- Kathryn Allen, HOPE Public Affairs Officer

1 comment:

  1. As proud of her as we are, we at home miss Dr MJ Reed. Especially today July 27th, her birthday. Please do something nice for her today.
    Thanks, Her family back home.