Mission to the Philippines – Day 3 – The Recovery and 2 More Surgeries

To say that Gift of Life, Rotary, the Duke and PCMC medical teams and the supporting actioneers are miracle workers may be a stretch but not much!

Both first day surgery patients, Arvin and Rihanna, had a restful night. While the surgeries for both took longer than expected both were successful.  The doctors were happy with the results.  Believe it or not both were up and walking last night just hours after their surgeries.  The pics below are of them this morning.

Joe, one of the Rotarians on the mission, got a smile from Arvin after he promised to buy his first pair of running shoes. Arvin had told us Sunday the first thing he wanted to do, once he was able, was to go running because he had never been able to run his entire life, all 16 years.  I believe I saw tears in everyone’s eyes.

My colleague, Diane Rotondelli (ok so I finally named her, yes she was the one who disconnected the suction machine in the OR the other day), has taken on the role of friend, sister, mother, grandmother (she said it was ok to call her grandma) with the parents and the children. She has been terrific in talking to the families and kids providing comfort, support and a shoulder to cry on when needed.

She spent time in the ICU today with the families and kids. Arvin’s cousin said the family is so grateful.  They are anxiously waiting for his return home after a year in Manila waiting for this surgery.  His brother’s birthday was yesterday and he posted on his FB page that the surgery was the greatest birthday present he could have ever asked for.  His father was informed of the success of the operation only after Arvin was out of danger.  He is very superstitious and thought he may jinx the operation and recovery if he was here.

Diane told us Rihanna was up and walking, eating hamburgers and pasta but not smiling (as you can tell by her pics) BUT Diane received the I love you sign from her just before she left ICU. Again, she talked to the family who could not say thank you enough or be more grateful every time you see them.

Diane has done great and important owrk here with the families.

If you saw FB yesterday I spent a considerable amount of time at the portal looking into the OR watching the teams prepare for surgery. In some pics on FB you can see each of the different teams prepping.  The perfusionists checking the heart lung machine, the anesthesiologists filling syringes and the nurses setting up the supplies in anticipation of the start of the next surgery.  It is really stimulating to watch as I continue to be awed at their hard work and professionalism.

I came back later to find Carl on the table and on the heart lung machine. The perfusionists (Samantha and Rich) were sitting next to each other reviewing the readings and watching what the machine was doing.  Remember, at this point, the patient is alive because of the heart lung machine while the doctors work on the heart.  Watching the blood flow thru the machine and knowing life is in the balance is intense (and I’m not even in the OR).  They have to stop the heart to work on it then start it beating again once they have made the necessary repairs (NOTE: I’m not doing justice to what they do but it’s important to the reader to have a high level view of what’s happening).  Imagine the responsibility of this team for the life they have in their hands, is mind boggling to me.  I will never again complain about what it costs to see a doctor,  surgeo ornurse again.

I spent some time talking to the some of the Duke medical team during the day.   They are excited to be here, some for the second time, some for the first and others who have been on other missions in other countries.  Funny, bright and genuine are words to describe them.  They respect each other but are just like the rest of us.  They want to help, they come not only to volunteer they say it grounds them in a different way, they come to remind themselves of why they picked this profession and why they love the job they do.  They say Andy (the surgeon) hasn’t stopped smiling or looked as happy as when he is here (keep smiling Andy).  This trip reenergizes them all for the work they do back in the US.

We left the hospital in the afternoon and traveled to see Shello, a young girl who was 8 years old when she had the heart surgery during the mission here in October 2013. As we drove to her home the divide between the poor and the well-off was clear.  Poor sections one after another even directly across the street from the Philippine House of Representatives.  The area Shello lives is in a poor neighborhood. Crowded, narrow streets, stray dogs, fighting cocks and children playing in the street was not unusual.

We turned down a narrow street where I thought the van might pull down the overhead electrical and phone lines because they were so low. It was barely passable by two cars between the people walking, the children playing, the parked cars and the stores that front a lot of people’s homes.

We reached Shello’s home. As we approached the home in the car we saw this beautiful young girl running and playing in the street.  It was Shello.  If you did not know it, never would you have thought this now 9 year old girl had a serious heart condition and could hardly walk without losing her breath.  Badminton and running, smiling and laughing was not something she did yet here she was living the life of a normal 9 year old girl with boundless energy and a crushingly beautiful smile!

We met her family. Mom, dad, 2 brothers, grandma and grandpa all extremely happy and grateful for the work Gift of Life does and what they did for Shello.  We shared a meal and dessert and off we went knowing that Gift of Life and Rotary had CHANGED LIVES!

Shello a fine example of the many children Gift of Life and Rotary have helped to live a normal life. She is the fulfillment of an idea, the execution of a plan and the hard work of the actioneers MAKING A DIFFERENCE AND CHANGING LIVES.

How about you? What are you doing?

About Bill Donnelly

Experienced Turnaround Executive, Certified Business Coach and Accredited Master Mentor
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