In the weeks leading up to the medical mission, screenings were performed in surrounding rural areas to identify patients for whom medical care was a distant dream. For these Nepalese villagers, the medical mission has truly become a family affair. As the patients meet with the doctors you can see the eyes of the entire family fill with a hope that was previously impossible to hold. And as each patient comes out of surgery and enters the recovery room you can feel the excitement and gratitude in the air as these patients lives have been changed forever. It is so clear that this opportunity has affected their entire family as you observe the patient’s recovery bed surrounded by family members who will care for them and bring them their meals until they can make their trip back home.
On this Tuesday, there were two patients in particular whose stories I will never forget. Their experiences were the type that made it clear why I was here and why will I will keep on coming back.
In Asian regions, there is an abnormally high occurrence of cleft lips and palates. More than a physical deformity, these conditions cause children to be ostracized by their peers and makes it difficult for them obtain an education. The first surgery I observed this morning was the repair of a cleft lip on a three-month-old child. As I watched the child’s lip being sutured together in a manner that would completely erase any future memory of this condition, a condition that the infant will never even remember having, I was floored by how drastically the course of the child’s life was being changed by this simple procedure.
Due to small living quarters and harsh winter conditions, the centerpiece of many Nepalese villagers’ homes is an open fire. While the benefit of this energy source is necessary and clear, its unintended side affects can be unforgiving. Such was the case for the sixteen-year-old boy who arrived this morning with his entire family. One year ago, this child’s life was changed forever when he suffered a seizure and fell into his family’s fire. The results were devastating: burns covering the child’s chest and face that changed his physical appearance and life forever. While the child waited to be seen by the medical staff, you could clearly see how the burns were affecting him as he would often face way from crowds or stare directly at the ground. However, when the boy met with the doctors and was told they would operate to repair his lower lip and right eye on Thursday, you could see hope, joy, and youth rush back into his face. While a string of surgeries over many years will be necessary for this child, this was undoubtedly the most powerful experience I have witnessed this week and maybe in my life.
All in all, Tuesday evening brought with it the successful completion of 22 procedures. From the Doctors, to the nurses, to the volunteers, to the Nepalese staff, it has been incredible to watch everyone work together to give wholely and tirelessly. By weeks end, we expect close to 100 surgeries to be completed and countless more lives changed; I know mine has been.