Tuesday, October 31, 2006

An Emotional Day

Today was amazing! Wow! Everyone agreed it was a day like no other. So many of the foreign foster homes are here at the moment with their kids, Tim from PHF, Amanda from Xi’an, and Jeff from Guizhou. Many of our team commented that it was really inspiring to be able to meet so many people in one place who have dedicated their lives to helping orphans.

Because of the news reports that aired yesterday, we had some local parents come to us today looking for help. One family made their way in from rural Anhui because of the TV footage. They had a BEAUTIFUL baby girl born 40 days ago. Because the TV show said that we were providing surgeries for orphans, they at first said they had found her on the side of the road. The love they had for the baby was so obvious, however, and they finally admitted that she was their daughter and they could not afford the surgery. They were hoping that our team could help them. Although this thriving baby was too young for the operation we were able to give her a good physical exam and some cleft care instruction by Patti Kellett, our LWB Medical Cleft coordinator. Baby Ling at first was confused by her new special Mead Johnson cleft bottle, but after a few tries she sucked away and was very well satisfied! How we wish every orphanage was able to have these cleft bottles for their kids. These bottles are just so important to children with cleft who have difficulties feeding. She will be referred back to Anhui Children’s hospital when she is old enough for surgery. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to see her in the arms of her Mama, with such a bright future.

Another family came to our team with hope in their hearts because their daughter was born with severe heart disease. They told our team that they had tried to have a child for ten years, and when she was born so blue, they decided to keep her no matter what and work hard to heal her. Even after working and borrowing and begging from family and friends, they still only have half of the funds needed to heal their daughter’s heart. We are arranging for her to have a full evaluation and will make sure that one way or another she is given the gift of life.

15 children were discharged today and 25 registered, and that was all by 9.30 am!! Boy did we need coffee! Now don’t think the accounts and registration department had nothing more to do for the day, as that was just phase one. Then they had to pay for the travel expenses of the Ayis - a process that really does take time. These registration volunteers rarely get time to go out to ward and play with the kids. They have to appreciate them as they are logged in and then in the collective photos of the great photographers on team. One of our volunteers fell absolutely in love with a little boy from Amanda’s home in Xi’An. Little Gabriel was putting his arms out for her to hold him, and was just so content to be cuddled. He got very sleepy waiting for surgery today and there were just no open beds to be found, so the volunteer went and grabbed a suitcase that we had brought supplies in and lined it with diapers. Within moments little Gabriel was fast asleep in the suitcase, and the volunteer was thinking she could just carry him home to the US that way!

Our Foster Care Director Arlene Howard was so excited to see the children from Lu’An with cleft issues arrive today as this is an LWB foster program and she knows all the children well. They were equally excited when they saw her, with lots of Ni haos and shaking hands and friendship. A couple of her children were here to have additional exams done. We had one scary moment when a five year old child was taken for her CT scan and collapsed. Thankfully the wonderful docs were there to help her and initial results show that she might have epilepsy. We will be following up on her completely and will make sure she gets any treatment needed.

Another little boy who came for cleft surgery was found to have a very weak leg due to a past polio infection. Following his cleft surgery, we plan to keep him at Anhui Children’s for a month of intensive PT. We are just so grateful to all of our medical staff who are making sure that each and every child receives a thorough exam.

We also want to mention that all of the caregivers on this trip have been outstanding. One team member wrote the following:

“The Kaifeng foster parents are so very impressive with their love for the children. I can tell that they showed genuine concern for the little ones. They interact with the children, smile at them, make eye contact, stroke their head, carry them all over. Then there is the lovely lady who is fostering the little girl from Guilin. This child has been in foster care for only a few months but has gotten chubby, rosy cheeks and did so well during her surgery. The mom carries the baby all over in a snuggly. I cried today when I was talking to the mom. I was so grateful for what she has done!”

There were many tears shared today as well, when the Fujian babies did their pre-op check ups and our pediatrician discovered that one of the children had a heart issue. After testing, it was learned that she has a 2 cm ASD. When our team told the aunty that the child couldn’t have cleft surgery because she had a heart issue, the aunty broke down in tears. She loved this little girl in her care so much. One LWB volunteer gave her a huge hug and everyone in tears trying to reassure the aunty that her baby would be okay. We are immediately scheduling the baby for heart surgery in Anhui and the wonderful thing is that just the day before, we had a donor write us to see if we had any heart children that needed a new chance at life. Hooray! We have just the heart baby for her…this beautiful child from Fujian.

For two of us it was a particularly emotional day when we were reunited with a baby we met on our last visit to China. Little Keren had arrived in Hefei for cleft palate surgery. Last May we had seen this lovely little baby with some very special needs, and we knew that to help her thrive she would need one on one care, something that is so very hard for the caring but busy SWI staff. She was moved to a special foster home and tomorrow will receive her surgery. Both Heidi and I held her close and she just snuggled right in. Her tiny warm body nestling there was the final straw to make both of us dissolve into tears. It was a very special moment.

And so it goes… the emotional ups and downs that make up the total experience of this life changing cleft trip.