The last two days have been jam packed with action. Yesterday I was, again, way too tired to write anything when I got back to the hotel. I hate doing that because then I forget the little things. The third day of surgery was slower than the first two. We had to shut down one whole operating table because so many team members were sick! I have STILL managed to evade it. I think in total we have had 20 people ill, that is 20%!!! I can't believe my stomach has held up through all of this.
I have continued to screen patients throughout the week, some have managed to be added on to this week's surgery schedule and others will hopefully be done at the new cleft center. It breaks my heart when we screen a patient and they are hypertensive or we discover some underlying condition that will keep them from having surgery. Not only will their cleft not be repaired, but in all likelihood their underlying condition will never be treated. I feel so helpless and limited sometimes.
In the same vein, I have unexpectedly been more emotional over the adults who get repaired. I think it is because I know they have lived their whole life with this condition. They have put up with the ridicule, they are probably uneducated because they weren't allowed to go to school. The adult women have become accustomed to covering their mouth with their scarves.
Today a man who I screened the first day got his new smile. He is not much older than me and had a bilateral cleft. I happened to see him in the waiting room in the OR today before going back to surgery. He looked so anxious sitting in that chair, gowned up and with foreigners all around him. I went up and spoke my few Assamese words to him. I could see in his eyes that he was unsure but so excited. His eyes were just darting around, taking it all in. The thought of him traveling hours for this, him wanting this enough to come so far away just brought me to tears. His life changed today. He came back to me in the recovery room with such a perfect lip. I mean seriously, the surgeons did an excellent job. I woke him up and gave him a mirror right away so he could see for himself. He looked for a good 30 seconds then looked straight at me and smiled the tiniest smile, it was all his tender lips could allow but it made the trip for me. I fed him sweet tea, cleaned the dry blood from his face and laid him back down. I just feel so content, it's probably a little selfish to take so much from this but I can't help it.
I struggled emotionally in other ways today also. A few of the other nurses and I decided to walk down the road to try and find some scarves. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so much. As we were walking down the very crowded side walk I started to feel claustrophobic. People were burning their trash so the air was thick, lots of honking, and tons of people. I walked ahead a bit to get to the main part of the road where it was a little more open. I reached the street and there on the side of the street was a man with no arms and no legs, just a torso and head. He was laying on his chest on some sort of board with wheels. He had a pan for begging in his mouth and was moving his jaw to make the pan bang up and down, asking for change. It was so unexpected that my stomach just dropped. It is something I will never forget. Some family member drops him off daily to pan handle on the street, probably his only way to contribute to the family finances. I immediately turned around and re-joined my group, my head was reeling. Then we walked further down and there were two young children no older than 7 each with an even younger child strapped to their backs. The babies were no older than 1. They kept hitting me with their metal pans begging for money. They had no pants and the babies had no diapers. Again, I was feeling sick to my stomach with guilt and sadness. The whole situation was extremely overwhelming.
We ended up not buying anything and going back to the hospital, we didn't even find the scarf man! I was glad to end the day on a happy note with my favorite patient completing his surgery but now I'm laying in bed unable to shut off my brain. Only 1 1/2 days left of surgery. Is that really possible?!