Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sunday in Anhui

Three simple words: TODAY WENT GREAT!

Our team boarded the bus from the hotel this morning, and the highlight for many team members was meeting Gong Lu in person! Many of you remember sweet Gong Lu, the little girl who came to the US for surgery to remove a large facial tumor last spring and who charmed all of America when she appeared on the Today Show. Her surgeon Dr. Buckmiller is on our cleft mission, and so it had been arranged that Gong Lu would come for a post op check in Hefei. One volunteer sat in front of her on the bus to the hospital and they had a fun time playing “peek a boo” through the cracks in the seat. She had brought photos to share with Gong Lu of her trip to NYC. Gong Lu loved looking at the album and when she saw the first picture she excitedly said the name of our LWB medical director. She still remembers everyone from her time in the US. Dr. Buckmiller carefully examined her nose and was very, very pleased with the results.

Just before the surgeries began for the day, Gong Lu’s orphanage director presented a beautiful banner to Dr Buckmiller and LWB. It was a gift from the Jiangxi government and the Fenyi County SWI in thanks for the surgery received by Gong Lu. Once again, everyone who met this child commented on her fun and shining personality. As she left the hospital, she cheerfully said, “Let’s go then!”, flashing her signature smile.

Surgery started just after that, and a full days schedule began. 3 teams operated in 3 operating rooms, and our volunteers had lots of adorable babies to hug before and after they went to surgery. 13 children had their turns in the OR, and tonight the sun is going down on a new beginning for each of them. Each baby who came today now has a new smile to show the world. Often the number 13 in western culture signifies bad luck …but our Irish board member Julie Flynn Coleman wrote the following:

“13 has always been my lucky number! On this cleft trip, 13 appears often. The OR is on the 13th floor, 13 children today had surgery, and for me personally in bed 13 is a tiny little baby from my eldest daughter’s first home. The connection for me is so very real and as I carried her into the pre op exam I felt just like a mama fusing over her baby. “My” baby was showing a slightly low body temp and I had been clucking around her for a few hours off and on. She was going to be operated on tomorrow on Monday’s schedule, but to be extra cautious a few more blood tests are needed so now she will wait one day more for results. She is one of the youngest babies here with hair that sticks up everywhere. I could spot her at a running distance. Did I tell you she is gorgeous?”

Today was also the first press conference for LWB. It was requested at the height of pre-op activity, with people dashing off to buy more diapers and supplies and with the halls and hospital rooms filled with ayis and babies registering. The wards were full with “rounds” and daily activities, and there was nowhere in sight to find the “quiet room” the TV crew requested. One of our board members steered them down to our “broom cupboard” (the storage room), and with the help of our translator the interview proceeded. Julie marveled at how no notes were taken, until they then asked her to repeat it for camera – ack!! She had decided that since no formal occasions were coming that day she would wear an Irish t-shirt given by a friend in the US, a fun shirt with shamrocks. And now she was being interviewed on TV in China, so what to do? Julie thought quickly and grabbed sweet Gong Lu in her arms, who like a pro smiled and did an excellent job of hiding all from the camera!

We are so happy that all 13 babies did well today, but for many of us one little girl in particular is worth cheering for. Little Qian from Guangdong had a very severe bilateral cleft lip, and her orphanage had tried to heal her lip many times in the past. However, each time she would be intubated for anesthesia, she would stop breathing, so this gorgeous little girl with smiling eyes had been unable to have surgery. We had decided to bring her to Anhui in the hopes our team could do her repair. Our anesthesiologists had brought a very special tube with them from the US just for her, the tiniest one possible, and we are happy to report that sweet Qian had successful surgery today and now has a mouth to match the beauty of those eyes that are always twinkling!

We hope you enjoy some of the photos from today. Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers. This trip has already touched all of our lives. More than one team member has come down from the surgery area with tears in their eyes. Seeing our doctors and the Chinese doctors and nurses working together on the babies is extremely touching.