Mission to the Philippines – Day 2 – The First Surgeries

Monday morning and two surgeries are scheduled. The biggest challenge will be Arvin, the 16 year old boy whose surgery, had he been born in the USA, would have been done by the time he was 12 months old.  It was going to be a challenge, his heart is large but appropriate for his age, there is more to deal with and the team does not, under normal circumstances, perform a surgery on someone this old but after careful screening they were sure it would be okay.  He was scheduled first because of the complexity of the surgery and his age.

Arvin’s mother and cousin were thankful since they had worked tirelessly for two years to get him here. One year ago they had moved to Manila so he could have this surgery.

We met Arvin in the waiting area before his surgery. He was with his cousin, his mother was on the way.  He was happy and smiling.  His cousin was happy and smiling (see the Facebook pics) but there was still tension in the air.  We all knew how serious this surgery was and we kept on smiling, being positive.

What happened next is telling. The Operating Room (OR) prep staff came to get Arvin.  For those of you who are experienced in reading body language he showed his first sign of concern and fear.  His cousin hugged him tightly, like it might be the last time (it could be, but it wasn’t), and off he went to the OR.

There was a more palatable change in the mood now. From the joy of knowing this surgery was lifesaving and life changing to a concern and uncertainty every surgery, no matter how simple, brings.

The next few hours were some of the most interesting in my life and career. I, along with my colleague, were asked if we would like to observe the surgery inside the OR.  We both said yes.

On went the scrubs and into the OR we went. While I had been in the OR before when my wife had a C-Section this was different.  This is open heart surgery and something I knew nothing about (I at least knew we’d have a kid after the C-section).  While I approached the room with some trepidation and fear I was, at the same time, excited.

Walking into the OR was like walking into another world, a place few have been and many would not go. Since this mission is also a teaching mission the OR was already crowded with observers (doctors and nurses) without adding myself, my colleague and the FiOS 1 news cameraman.

I initially stood next to the Perfusionists (Samantha and Rich). They operate the heart and lung machine.  Samantha explained what the machine does and how it keeps the patient alive while the surgeons repair the heart.  I won’t tell you all the details but suffice to say, Samantha and Rich are key players at a critical point in the surgery.

I was allowed to move around the OR, taking pictures (which you also saw on FB) and actually got to look directly in on the surgery to see the heart they were about to operate on pumping. I’m still trying to find the right words to express what it feels like to see all the things I saw in the OR but amazing, thankful, impressed and enlightened are a good start.

Amazed at the teamwork, knowledge and precision with which the OR staff works. All working in unison, like an orchestra, each playing their part creating a symphony of sound and movement.  Communicating, everyone at the top of their game, not a wasted motion, not an unnecessary word. Everyone focused on the patient, everyone focused on the outcome.  The actioneers working the plan as scripted.

Thankful we have people like the doctors, surgeons and nurses from Duke (and PCMC) who give of their time freely to help others. Thankful that organizations like Gift of Life and Rotary care enough to fund these missions.  Thankful that I am lucky enough to be a part of this mission.

Impressed with the character and integrity of all those involved. Impressed with the compassion and the love every team member has for the children.  Impressed with PCMC and what they do every day under less than ideal conditions.

Enlightened because you hear about these types of missions. The good work organizations do all over the world yet when you are on a mission like this you begin to understand, you begin to appreciate and you become enlightened in a way only being here can give you.

The first surgery last almost 7 hours by the time Arvin was rolled out to ICU. Within two hours the Duke team was back in surgery on Rhena (or Rihanna as we call her because of the singing on exam day).  The turnaround in the OR was truly amazing, cleaning, prepping back into surgery and recovery. The team arrived back at the hotel around 10 pm after completing the second surgery.  A long and exhausting day for them.

If there is a take away, a lesson to be learned that I can put to work it’s that an idea, a plan and action well done constitute and bring about a successful outcome but without an undeniable love of the idea, a deep commitment to the plan and burning desire to act on the plan nothing happens. All the good ideas, all the great plans and all the action in the world cannot overcome the lack of love, commitment and desire to anything we do in business or in life.

Here in the Philippines at PCMC with the Duke medical team, the PCMC medical team and all the supporting actioneers it IS happening with a love, a commitment and a burning desire to help those who cannot help themselves.

About Bill Donnelly

Experienced Turnaround Executive, Certified Business Coach and Accredited Master Mentor
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