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Dec. 1,  2017

Our First Medical Mission to Colombia

We have successfully completed our first Medical Mission in Colombia! We partnered with Drawing Alegria and sent five of our board members to help treat 72 children (78 procedures) with cleft lip and palate. In addition to our medical personnel, we brought vital medication, surgical tools, and much-needed anesthesia monitors -- totaling $8,000. We have been invited back for a mission in 2018, and we are already looking forward to returning! Thanks to Drawing Alegria for inviting us, our Mending Faces team: Carrie Stock-Lababidi Mimi Wong Amy Metzger Jeff Swail and Sami Lababidi. AND THANKS TO ALL OF OUR SUPPORTERS!

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Feb. 4, 2017

Day 6 – The Final Countdown, By Jeremy Douglas

Today marked the final day of surgeries and it surely spurred some bittersweet thoughts. After nearly a week of making new friends and acquaintances, we are now one day closer to saying goodbye – at least until next year. While many of us have a previous connection to Mending Faces (only five new team members this year), we are faced with the reality that we’re going to have to give one final hug and share one final laugh with the families, children and hospital staff that we’ve gotten to know and love these past several days.

What a week though – our medical teams performed surgery on our final 10 patients today giving us a grand total of 61 families helped in a mere four days’ time. We had originally come out to Lucena with close to 80 patients set for screening, but alas, we weren’t able to help everyone due to a myriad of complications – poor health making the children unfit for surgery, age requirements (both too young and too old) and even some no-shows. Additionally, our last day of surgeries included our third and last school visit, as well as two more take-home visits. We’re really making some lasting connections in the area in more ways than one.

Regardless of the number of lives touched and procedures performed, what an amazing impact we all had together in such a limited timeframe. After the final child was moved from the PACU out into the ward, the evening was spent celebrating our accomplishments and newfound friendships amongst all of the medical teams (local and Mending Faces), hospital administrators, local UGAT partners and Quezon province political affiliates. Dressed in all white, we all gathered in a ballroom in the Queen Margarette Hotel for what was a very nice dinner, energetic music, vivacious dancing and heartfelt acknowledgements. We were even “serenaded” by a local choir group hired on by the local UGAT team to bring us some joyous melodies immediately following our meal. Boy, can the Filipino people sing!

We still have one more partial day at the hospital tomorrow to complete our work for the week – packing, final discharging of our last patients and the last logistical items to cross off of our list. Many of us then take the busses and vans back to the airport in Manila either to venture into another nearby country for some travel or simply on our way back home.

It’s hard to put into words what this week means to people. I’ve personally been asking around to get all sorts of viewpoints and first takes and I’m always amazed at the responses. The amount of learning, interpersonal growth, appreciation, resiliency and graciousness that happens is something to behold in and of itself. The culmination of these things makes everyone better off as we actively participated in the mending of more than just faces, but the mending of lives as well. The impact isn’t always quantifiable, nor should it be, but just giving another a reason to smile and be happy was more than enough for all of us in Lucena this week.

Be sure to stay tuned to our website, social media accounts and newsletters as we pull together all of our photos, reflections and patient stories over the next several weeks. I’ll even see if we can get a video of the choir singers from tonight up on our channels. 

Be well and thank you all again for your love and support - we could not have done this without you!

 

Feb. 2, 2017  Day 5 – Keep on Keepin’ On!, By Jeremy Douglas

Now into our third full day of surgeries in the hospital, we’ve definitely hit our stride. Nearly 50 operations are in the books after today and we’re chugging right along. The operating rooms (we have two tables in one and three in the other for a total of five) have been lively with music and it’s like watching poetry in motion. Most of the surgical professionals have worked together in years past or at home, but it still amazes me how people from different countries can all speak a universal language when treating a patient. Furthermore, we have some new team members back in the operating room this year and they fit into the mold like clockwork – another testament to the amount of time, planning and coordination the medical teams take for their work this week.

Out in the ward, the children and their families are treated with equally as good of care as in the operating rooms. You hardly see any distraught or scared kids as they either wait their turn to go into surgery or from those just coming out of the PACU, post-operation. Our nursing teams, in partnership with the local nursing teams, are doing an incredible job keeping the process moving forward and making everyone feel safe and comfortable as they do so. The ward gets plenty of sunlight from nearby windows and the constant swing of a cool breeze from the fans keeps everyone in comfort. Each morning, a new day starts with our volunteers bringing smiles and laughter to the families as we start the discharge process for going home.

Speaking of going home, each year we try to identify a handful of local patients that we get to take home ourselves (instead of reimbursing them for their travel). We can’t take everyone due to limited resources, but we do get a chance to take some local families home and see where they live. Today, we took a young boy and his mother who lived just outside of Lucena. It was in a fairly rural part of the area and took a little bit of a hike to get inside. The family of five had a fairly modern house, for Filipino standards, with some electricity running and one running toilet. It was still small by U.S. standards, but what the family lacked in niceties it made up for with love. As if the hospital and city didn’t put things into perspective, visiting one of our patient’s homes really makes one feel fortunate to be in a developed world with luxuries aplenty. These are the additional experiences in the Philippines that really make you appreciate what we have and more importantly, that the value of the “stuff” we do have pales in comparison to the relationships we keep. Be good to everyone because you never know when you might need help from another – the power of giving back certainly outweighs and outlasts the hope of receiving something in return.

We did also make another school visit today and while I didn’t personally attend, I hear there was a band that greeted and entertained everyone while on the visit. Pictures and videos to follow. 

What’s more is that a local TV station came by to interview some of our volunteers and partners for the morning news. They were very kind and we look forward to the final edited cut once it is broadcast to metro Lucena area tomorrow. Again, hoping to have that video for you all in the next week or two.

Also, be sure to keep an eye out for social media updates from our last day of surgeries tomorrow as we discharge the second half of our patients from this week. It should be a lighter day in the operating rooms and wards with only 10 cleft lip surgeries in the plans, but we do plan on visiting another school for a dental hygiene lesson.

Thanks again for all the love and support from home – your donations and care are giving these families a new hope, smile and so much more.

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Feb. 1, 2017

Day 4 – School Visits, Surgeries and Discharges – Oh My!

Jeremy Douglas

We’re about halfway through the mission and things are going swimmingly. It’s amazing how the Mending Faces team, our local UGAT partners from Lucena and medical teams at the hospital all interact to give the best care and attention possible to these children and families in need.

We had another 16 surgeries today and according to the surgeons, all went extremely well. The kids in the ward are in good spirits and seem to be healing very fast. Of course, they have a long road to full recovery still ahead, but spirits are up and the gratitude is high. Some of the kids even took the time to work with their parents to write thank you notes to the mission team and they simply just warm the heart.

Because we’ve been able to hit the ground running and have a well-orchestrated system in place, we’ve had the opportunity to use some spare time to work on some projects that we haven’t been able to get to in year’s past. For example, we were able to shoot our first instructional video today for the cleft lip patients on the best practices and processes for caring for their repaired lips. Why did we do this? So that the parents of these kids can access the instructional videos online, but also watch it on an iPad in the ward for as many times as they want before they are discharged from the hospital. We pulled in a local nurse to translate the instructions and despite a little crying from the baby participating, it turned out great. Tomorrow, we will do the same for a cleft palate patient!

We also had our first school visit of the week and those who went explained how fun and invigorating the experience was for them. They were keen to shoot some video and take plenty of pictures while showing the kids proper dental hygiene. Watching hundreds of school children brush their teeth in mass is sure a site to behold. The smiles presented as a result were beautiful and then the volunteers turned a few basketballs loose for the kids to play.

We had a lot to prep for the next day with several cleft lip and palate patients being discharged before 9am, but after we got all of our ducks in a row we returned to the hotel and sat by the pool for some rest and relaxation. Tables full of snacks and cold drinks rounded out a long, but awesome day and the mission team was able to sit back and share stories and laugh about the happenings from earlier.

How lucky do I feel to be a part of this group? Immensely. This passionate and dedicated group of people rally around a cause that truly helps kids step into a new, more improved way of living. Being able to just eat and speak properly is something we take for granted and being able to correct those issues and erase a social stigma in the process is something that most cannot say. The Filipino people have been so appreciative and engaging throughout the entire time and it just makes you want to do even more than you can. Love truly rules the world and if you don’t believe me, join us next year and see for yourself.

Another day in the books and another one ahead of us here in Lucena. Wish us luck and thanks again for all the support from home. Stay tuned for updates from Day 5 and be sure to see our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for videos and photos throughout.

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Jan. 31, 2017: Day 3 – Surgeries Begin!, Jeremy Douglas

 

We got off to an early start today at the hospital as our first round of patients were prepped and ready for surgery. The energy was palpable across all staffs (outreach, nursing and surgical) and despite a minor issue in accounting for all of our medicines in the morning, we were off and running!

There were 15 scheduled surgeries (six lips and nine palates) for the first day and by 2pm we had a few additional walk-in patients inquire about the possibility of surgery. By day’s end, we had completed 16 total surgeries with more updates to the schedule for tomorrow and the next day.

While the medical teams were getting the kids on the operating tables, and nurses prepping for them surgery, the outreach team was busy at work in the Mending Faces office compiling go-home bags, school visit giveaways and organizing the room for the rest of the week. With three upcoming school visits this week, we needed to get all of the toothbrushes (thanks Global Grins!) and tubes of toothpaste paired and into boxes for nearly 1,000 children in the local Lucena area. More to come on that tomorrow. 

One of the very rewarding parts of joining the Mending Faces medical mission is that nonmedical people get a chance to interface with the activities happening behind the closed hospital doors. Outreach volunteers can really get involved in the entire medical process – from patient check-in all the way through discharge – which at home is impossible to experience. I spoke to Kim Turnley about her experience today and the following is a summary of our conversation:

“Today was the best day ever,” Kim said. To which I asked, “Why? What made it the best day ever?”

Kim took a second to gather her thoughts and I noticed a tear starting to form in the corner of her eye. She was able to get back into the operating room today and watch a few surgeries. While she was in there, a boy that she had met on screening day named John Michael was brought in and placed on the table next to her for surgery. This little boy’s father had left him and his mom, who also raises his two older siblings. I could tell Kim had a soft spot for John Michael and that she had made a real connection with the boy just a day prior.

Kim then proceeded to explain how after she stepped away from the operating room, she noticed John Michael’s Mom outside in the hallway peering through the window. “So, I wanted to walk out to console her and give her an update on the status of her son,” Kim said. Soon thereafter Kim was embracing the mother with a smile and a hug to reaffirm that John would be out soon and in good health. Not too long after, the doctors brought John Michael out of surgery and into the PACU.

The gratitude and appreciation shown to Kim by the mother helped her realize how amazing the whole medical experience was during the past few hours. “The surgical and medical support teams are being very deliberate about their process.” She explained. And not just that, they also provided her a great learning opportunity to understand how the anesthesia machines work, why they do certain things at certain times and then she got to visually see how a cleft palate was repaired. “When you get to see a surgery from start to finish, it gives you even more appreciation for the work we are doing here in the Philippines.”

To Kim’s point, when people get a chance to willingly put themselves out of their comfort zones, those experiences are often the best teacher. Not just because our preconceptions are challenged and sometimes even disproven, but because it reaffirms the greater purpose for why we do what we do. So when Kim says that this was the best day ever, it isn’t just a statement that she throws around lightly. And as I was consoling her and gaining her perspective for our interview, I knew that we (all of Mending Faces) are exactly where we are supposed to be – together, making a difference a world away from home.

Stay tuned for more tomorrow as we have busy days ahead. We have more than 20 patients heading home in the morning and close to 20 more headed into surgery. Wish us luck as we push forward and take solace in knowing that our team grows stronger every day.

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Jan. 30, 2017

Volunteer Stories

My First Mission Trip, Greg Spratt

This being my first mission trip with Mending Faces and my first trip to the Philippines, I wasn't sure what to expect. I've done other medical mission trips and just came direct from one in Malawi. I have learned that you can't really anticipate what to expect so best to come with no preconceived notions.  They all share similarities (e.g., challenging working conditions, managing controlled chaos, acclimating to a new culture, etc.), but are all quite different.

During the bus ride to Lucena from Manila, I had some time to consider what the children involved might be thinking today. Today is the pre-op assessment day so many will be having their surgery tomorrow. What's going through their minds? I'm sure there's a certain amount of fear like any of us would have prior to a procedure. For many, especially the younger ones, some confusion as to why they're going to this new place and seeing these strange-looking people.

I hope that their primary thoughts are excitement and anticipation, especially the older kids who have lived not only with the medical problems of cleft lip/palate, but also the social stigma for so long. Many have been unable to attend school or had difficulty making friends because of their condition. Are they anticipating what it might be like when people don't stare or point at them?  What might it be like to find acceptance and maybe even friendships?  Dare I think that I might have a boyfriend or girlfriend?  Could someone think that I'm attractive?  In other words, might I have a chance to live a 'normal' life?  I hope above all that they can dare to dream.

Day #1 Screening, Usha Barry

Although screening day is a joyous day filled with all the children and families we've come so far to help, there is sometimes heartbreak too.  That was the case today when we met Prince John Rei Obligar and his mother and grandmother.  Prince John Rei was born with bilateral cleft lips as well as biliary atresia that has led to liver failure.  He had a temporizing procedure on his biliary tract at age 3 months, but he really needs a liver transplant before age 2.  Without intervention, the survival rate of biliary atresia is 50% at age 2 and approaches zero at age 5.  

It was difficult to tell Prince John Rei's family that he was not a candidate for cleft lip repair because of the risks associated with his serious condition, but they handled it well.  They've already dealt with so much bad news in his short life.  His mother teared up slightly.  You could see in her eyes that any hope of being able to do something for her son, anything really, was drifting away. His grandmother tells me there is no way they can afford the 1.4 million Philippine pesos ( about $30,000 ) needed for the liver transplant.  They have already exhausted what little they have on medications and doctor's visits.  I can't imagine the depth of pain and agonizing frustration they must feel at not being able to help their little boy!  Liver transplantation has altered the natural history of biliary atresia in more affluent countries.  The ten-year patient survival rate after liver transplant is 85-90%.  If only Prince John Rei could be given that chance.

To be honest, as a physician, I know nothing about fundraising or establishing Go-Fund-Me-Pages. But amongst Mending Faces and it's supporters, I am hoping there is someone out there who might know what we can do to help.  We came to perform cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries, but in the bigger sense we came to help people, and here is a chance to do that by saving this little boy's life.  So if you have the know-how, or the money, or the contacts, please let me know.

You can learn more about Prince John Rei's Journey in Fighting Biliary Atresia here: https://m.facebook.com/Baby-Prince-John-Reis-Journey-in-fighting-Biliary-Atresia-1188167237910067/
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Screening for Smiles

January 29, 2017, Jeremy Douglas



Screening day started off strong when 25 families were already waiting to get started upon our arrival at 8AM. Thanks to the diligent prep work done in Day 1, the screening area was ready to rock-and-roll with plenty of chairs, snacks and toys outside of the main office for the children to enjoy. Our local partners from UGAT Association were side by side to help us with translation efforts and the facilitation of our overall process. By 8:30AM, we were off and running.

Separately, the medical team that wasn’t helping with screening was busy preparing the operation room for the start of surgeries tomorrow. Unpacking the medical supplies and assembling the five separate beds/stations for surgeries in two different operating rooms this week is no small feat, especially when certain equipment is either in need of repair or just outright unusable. This sort of wear and tear comes with the territory however, and having backups plus the luxury of modern technology at Quezon Memorial Hospital has helped immensely.

So, as the morning wore on and the families and children continued to arrive for screening, we were able to hit a stride fairly early on and into the afternoon. We had the pleasure of meeting more than 80 very special children, most of which are going to be admitted for surgery this week. I say “most of” because we unfortunately cannot lend our help to everyone in need. Whether it be health complications, age or own limited resources, not every child that we greet at our doorsteps can be given the immediate chance of life-changing surgery.

Let me give you an example:
A girl by the name of Reynala Presentacion – a 20 year old Filipina girl with a cleft palate – had to be turned away today. She was striking and beautiful, but is burdened with a cleft palate and hasn’t had the opportunity to receive the treatment she needs. Reynala is the oldest of five siblings and her father has been in and out of her life since she was two years old. She likes to cook and sing, and is the president of a local association in her town that supports those who are physically and mentally challenged. A local caregiver from Lucena had travelled to her small mountain town a few months ago notifying the inhabitants of our Mending Faces medical mission. Reynala thought this would be her chance to receive a free surgery that she couldn’t afford.

I am writing this to paint a picture of the difficulties we sometimes face as missioners in that we have to set and stand by our own ground rules and policies. We always try to make exception when the situation warrants as such, but in Reynala’s case, she was just too old to operate on for our surgeons this week. The surgical complications of a mouth surgery only increase as children get older. It makes sense - the mouth area is larger and the amount of blood that comes from a major surgery such as this is substantially more than those that are younger. Not only that, but the healing process is more intensive and we only have a finite time period in which we can monitor and care for someone at that age. Not to mention, if we’re only equipped to complete around 15-20 surgeries per day (80+ surgeries in a week), that also means that if we take Reynala’s case, we are also likely foregoing a younger child where their speech therapy and development is much more critical at a younger age.

These are the realities of our weeklong journey in the Philippines – we will help anyone we can, but we cannot help them all. For all of its potential flaws and problems, it reminds us that we may take our own healthcare system for granted. In the developed nations across the world, we are very fortunate to have the access to the support systems in place. It also shows that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. And, when you have to challenge the very essence of why you travelled to a place, you then expand the viewpoint from which you look at different situations.

I for one can appreciate the thoughtfulness and care we give to our mission even more because we have to make the tough decisions just as much as the easy ones.

Stay tuned for what the first day of surgeries has to offer – we’re going to be doing a ton of palates this week, which are typically twice as difficult and consuming as lips. Wish us luck and thanks again for all the support from home.

 

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We’ve Arrived in Lucena!

January 28, 2017, Jeremy Douglas

Saturday,– Mending Faces arrived in Lucena at the Queen Margarette Hotel to kick off another action packed week of medical mission mastery. A small, grassroots nonprofit such as ours aims to always learn and find new ways to restore hope to children with cleft lip and palate in under-privileged parts of the world. One way to test our aptitude and teamwork is by travelling to parts unknown. This week, we venture to a new city in the Philippines where we are working with new local constituents at a new hospital.

Queen Margarette Hotel, Lucena

First Take:

Lucena certainly is the hustling/bustling city we’d learned of before arriving on its soil. More modern and heavily populated than last year’s Medical Mission city (Kalibo), Lucena has multiple hospitals, but perhaps none larger than the site of this year’s medical mission. Today, as we gathered to unpack (after lunch at the hotel), some of us were awestruck as we walked into a six story building with a large, circular general area complete with a metal Christmas tree in the open lobby. The view looks up at all floors in the hospital.

Our pre and post-op wards reside on the second level and part of this area actually overlooks the lobby itself. On the same floor is the surgical ward where we are operating out of for the week (the closer you get to that area, the more you can feel the cool air permeating from the central A/C!). Members of the medical team were beginning to unpack and get acquainted with this area during the first day, ahead of screening day tomorrow. Our main office for the week is on the first floor, which is where the outreach team spent most of the afternoon unpacking our admin gear and tallying donations for giveaway bags going to the kids and families.

In general, people in and around the hospital were all friendly and offered a smile at every encounter - a sign of good things to come!

The Quezon Memorial Hospital, Lucena

The evening was spent getting some supplies for our rooms back at the hotel and then out for dinner within a few clicks (yes we’re also getting re-adjusted to the metric system) of the hotel itself. It was great to get reacquainted with old friends and meet some new faces as we get the week underway.

Be sure to stay tuned to the blog, social media and our newsletter for continuous updates from the ground, video logs and interviews of our experiences, and pictures from in and around the hospital.

Tomorrow we hold patient screening as 80+ children and their families converge on Quezon Memorial for facial reconstructive surgery, and an opportunity of a lifetime to get a new smile for life. Wish us luck and thank you to everyone for your love and support.

 

January 27, 2017

From Norway, With Love! -- By Jeremy Douglas

For the past several years, Mending Faces has had the sincere pleasure of being joined by a skilled and passionate group of individuals from Norway that lend their help and expertise during the medical missions.

Because each one of these people have personally made a great impact on the organization – not to mention, quite an impression on everyone they meet – I wanted to dig up an interview we did together from the 2016 mission. Upon further reading, I was immediately transplanted back in time to our group discussion in the hotel lobby while sharing cold beverages after a long, hot day in Kalibo. We had plenty of laughs, pooled together keen moments of reflection and a collective gratitude for where we were and what we were doing.

Before you read any further, I would like to personally thank Dr. Hallvard Vindenes, Therese Rasmussen, Nina Helen Pedersen, Svein Kornerud and Ida Elise Kornerud for their time and consideration. Thank you for all that you do!

So, without further ado, here are the top highlights from our chat and some key takeaways that I wanted to share.

Children born with a cleft lip or palate in Norway automatically get the treatment they need, due to the national healthcare system in place. Therefore, the idea of a “medical mission” is somewhat foreign to many Norwegians because healthcare is provided to all in need. When Svein, Nina, Therese Hallvard (and now Ida) bring their stories home about their Mending Faces experiences, it really moves people’s hearts to see these kids and the kind of poverty they endure. They continue to get new and positive feedback each time they breach the topic with others.

What surprised them the most? It was two-fold: the inclusiveness of the Mending Faces organization and the impression they received from meeting the families and parents of the children we are helping. The level of engagement across all participants is astounding and everyone pulls together (regardless of your personal background) and is truly hyper-engaged for the weeks’ time that we spend together. You also never forget the impression that a parent makes on you when you are helping their child to learn to speak correctly for the first time. It’s these moments in our conversation that pointed to the overall sense of inclusiveness and how the global community has an opportunity to model itself that way.

Every day is a learning experience for them [Svein, Ida, Nina, Therese and Hallvard]. Whether it’s a very unique bi-lateral cleft lip that Dr. Hallvard is surgically repairing or a particularly challenging speech therapy session being led by Nina and Therese, they are able to take something new from each experience and build on it for the future. I also would be remiss if I didn’t paraphrase a quote from Svein (who is a key player in the outreach team): “I hated hospitals and I hated to see blood. Now, I can stand up in an operating room for hours – I did not know I would be able to do that!” The long and the short of it is, they all pride themselves on breaking down barriers and developing relationships through learning.

It’s not an “ordinary” mission. According to the group, they said Mending Faces is different from other medical missions because it takes the time and care to develop a special relationship with the community it serves. By having people on staff with local roots, and having different points of re-engagement with the same people and families (especially year over year in a place like Kalibo), they believe we get to dig deeper than most and what we discover is both astonishing and heart-warming.

I could go on for a while, but you can obviously tell that Svein, Ida, Nina, Therese and Hallvard all bring something special to the table. They work hard, they play hard and above all else, they bring a passion and thoughtfulness to Mending Faces that permeates throughout the team. When I asked them how they got involved with the mission they immediately looked and pointed to Nina and explained how she was the reason they were here. “If she didn’t find it, we wouldn’t be here.” It was at this moment that Nina looked back at me with a smile and replied, “It was not even a persuasion to get them all to come on the trip.”

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My Time To Give Back, By Laura Ross
 
Two years ago today (Jan 23rd) I began a journey to save my life. I started neoadjuvant chemotherapy to treat stage 3 breast cancer. It certainly was not a chosen path but one I had to endure. Many emotions rattled around inside of me – fear, anxiety, sadness, anger and so many more. There was a huge learning curve ahead for me – I couldn’t read enough or ask enough questions.  I wanted to know everything possible in order to make the best  possible choices for my care.
 
And now, here I am two years later after surviving chemo, double mastectomy and radiation!! And it is time to give back!
 
Going on this medical mission with Mending Faces was a chosen path for me.  There are some similar emotions going through my head – fear and anxiety, but also anticipation and excitement for the incredible experience I am about to embark on. And once again, I have so much to learn! I love to help others and I can hardly wait to see what lay ahead during this mission trip. I know that the care we will be providing to these children will also be life altering and I can’t help but wonder if I was kept alive for a reason.

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Leaving on a Jet Plane! 

January 26, 2017

Another Year, Another Mission, By Jeremy Douglas

Yet another year has flown by and here we are in 2017 getting ready for another Mending Faces medical mission! This year, though, we are headed to a new destination in the Philippines called Lucena. 

From what we’ve gathered (from our own research and our constituents on the ground) is that Lucena is a happening city with a lot to offer. Many streets are lined with industrial buildings and warehouses, with plenty of small businesses serving the local community of about 300,000 people. While this region of the Philippines is somewhat more developed than others, there is still plenty of work to do for the local children needing facial reconstructive surgeries (namely cleft lips and palates). We have around 80 families awaiting us in Lucena, the 2017 Mending Faces medical mission team embarks upon our journey. It is our goal to give each and every one of these children a chance at a new smile, and their families a new hope for the future of their kiddos.

 Some quick hits about Lucena:

·         Lucena's fertile soil was the grounds upon which many Filipinos and Americans fought in battle at the outbreak of the Filipino-American War in 1899. The foreigners established a civil government in the country, and on March 12, 1901, the provincial capital was transferred from Tayabas to Lucena.

·         During the Second World War, Japanese Imperial Force occupied Lucena just 19 days after they set foot on Philippine soil. But the underground resistance movement was so resolute that by January 25, 1945 (even before the Americans returned), the Hunters ROTC guerrillas penetrated into the town and successfully drove out the Japanese. 

·         On June 17, 1961, by virtue of Republic Act No. 3271, Lucena was made into a Chartered City through the efforts of the late Congressman Manuel S. Enverga. It was officially inaugurated on August 19, 1962, during the 84th anniversary of Manuel Luis Quezon. On July 1, 1991, Lucena became a Highly Urbanized City.

·         The city proper is wedged between two rivers, Dumacaa River on the east and Iyam River on the west. Seven other rivers and six creeks serve as natural drainage for the city. Its port on the coast along Tayabas Bay is home to several boat and ferry lines operating and serving the sea lanes between Lucena and the different points in the region and as far as the Visayas.

·         Being the provincial capital, Lucena is host to most of the branches of governmental agencies, businesses, banks and service facilities in the Southern Tagalog region.

·         Lucena has private and public hospitals that are capable of providing most common and advanced medical services, as well as in handling medical emergencies. Both types of institutions are considered to provide the same standard of healthcare and services, differing mainly with the medical and diagnostic facilities at hand.

Those are just some quick highlights as to the region we are going. I’m sure we will uncover many new and captivating ways of life, as well as connect with the local population in a multitude of ways. I know we are all super excited to be embarking upon this journey together and for what the next several days holds for the children and families. It is at times like these that we reflect upon how lucky we are to travel the world and give back to those less fortunate. It’s chicken soup for the soul, in its most purest form. The second you start putting others (especially strangers) before yourself, is the start of a personal journey of self-realization and fulfillment.

Stay tuned for more and wish us luck!

The first and hopefully not the last, By Maia Pedemonte

For the past several years my brother Matt has been going to the Philippines on a mission trip with Mending Faces and always comes back with great stories and memories that will never be forgotten, and every year he tells me I should go. The past two years my mother and father were fortunate enough to volunteer and see what my brother has been doing all these years. I have just finish my undergraduate degree at Humboldt State University this past fall and now, it is my turn to accompany my brother on the Mending Faces 2017 Mission trip! I am so excited and thankful that I get to be a part trip. This will be my first time to the Philippines and I have no idea what to expect but I do know that I cannot wait for the experience.

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January 11, 2017

The Mending Faces 2017 Medical Mission (Jan. 29 - Feb. 3 in Lucena, Philippines) to provide free surgical care to impoverished children born with cleft lip and cleft palate, is just a few weeks away. We have 73 patients- 41 palates and 32 lips. 

Our team is getting excited to go. A few volunteers share their thoughts on the upcoming mission below: 

Returning, By Kim and Dave Turnley

We are looking forward to returning to the Philippines with Mending Faces. Knowing that a small gesture helps make a difference in so many lives. The thought of us helping to put a smile on a child for a lifetime is indescribable. All I know is when people are smiling the world is a better place. If you think about all the great times in your life there was smiles and laughter. You can pay it forward to the world by simply smiling at all the people that you meet.

Unfortunately not everyone can and that’s not fair to them or all the people they meet in the lives. A smile is the universal language that everyone understands and we simply need more smiles. We meet so many wonderful caring people during our short stay and it’s not just the patients and volunteers but the families we meet and the stories they share with us.

We are in awe of the doctors and nurses and volunteers that do this mission year after year, proving that there is still good in the world. The outreach part of our mission allows us to interact with children from the other side of the world and we realize they aren’t much different from us. The mission keeps things in perspective and keeps you grounded and makes you realize what’s important in life.
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Feeling Thankful, By Rhonda Higgins

As this 2017 Mending Faces Medical Mission draws nearer with only a few weeks until we arrive in Lucena Philippines, I must admit I am feeling a little more ANGST about this trip than last year’s trip. With all of the turmoil in our world and news on the television, one has to really look deep into their souls to AGAIN return to a country that is 'not jubilant' about having Americans present.

BUT then I only have to take a peek at the photos from last year and see the THANKFUL looks on the faces of those wonderful children as well as the grateful faces of the parents of these children.

This team of missioners has made such an impact on the lives of numerous cleft palate/cleft lip children over the years, whom have received this gift of a "NEW SMILE".  So as the holiday celebrations wrap-up, the BEST gift to give is the gift of 'ONESELF'.  Mending Faces Volunteers give the gift of their own time and talents to HELP those less fortunate.  So my prayer for this trip is...

Please protect and guide all of the amazing members of the Mending Faces Team on their journey to Lucena, Philippines. Bless all of the children that are about to receive their NEW SMILES.  Help them to heal quickly and give them courage to face the challenges life holds for them. Please weaken evil and strengthen good. Let us live by FAITH not by SIGHT. Please watch over us on this mission.

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Once the Mission begins, we will send daily emails and photos so you can follow the action. Subscribe Here-
http://www.mendingfaces.org/2017-mission

Hope to have you watching our adventure!

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October 2, 2016

Mission 2017 Report from Board Member Jay LaVigne:

A very hectic time of year.  Besides Restoring Hope, we are also shipping supplies and equipment for delivery in late December.  Seven boxes were shipped last week, and we have another 15 to 20 to go.  These 25 boxes plus the 40 boxes of supplies and equipment that are stored in Kalibo allow our mission to be self contained, possessing essentially everything we will need to stage a successful mission.  Thanks the Kerry, Barb, Amy M, Carrie, Julie and Amy R. for taking the time to handle all the materials and pack their boxes. We used to just fill boxes and then deal with sharing the stuff when we got there.  Now each lead person gets their own box which only they or their team handle.  It eliminates so much hunting for stuff.

While there are variety of people involved on the supply side, Amy Metzger is truly deserving of special recognition for expertly managing an extremely confusing supply situation.  We have divided up the medical side into a variety of areas:  Surgery, Anesthesia, PACU and Ward – each group has a variety of idiosyncrasies that need to be addressed through supplies.  Amy a great job of managing all of it. Thanks Amy!

Mission Recruiting in Lucena

Our mission comes prepared to provide more than $1,000,000 in free surgical services.  We spend an entire  year working to ensure that we have enough patients to fill our schedule and deliver the full benefit of our mission to the less fortunate of Quezon.

Towards that end we retained a mission liaison, Mabel Palomar, RN, who has been busy since June in handling logistical issues as well as ensuring that every deserving patient learns of our mission and is able to travel to Lucena for surgery.   Through this effort we determined early on that the province had had many lip missions over the years but few palate missions.  Our lip to palate ratio of 66% palates was the reverse of previous missions.  This early determination of the procedure splits led us to arrange for a 5th table to handle nothing but palates.

We have almost filled the mission with 73 identified patients (max patient count is around 76) but with 47 palates.  Mabel has been in contact with all of them, assuring them that we will reimburse travel (pamasahe in Filipino) and medicines in addition to the free surgery.  In addition to the recruiting we have been exceptionally fortunate to have Dr. Dennis Rivere, a pediatrician in Lucena, join the team.

Dr. Rivere has been extremely proactive and had asked that we bring the patients in right away for preliminary health screening.  Mabel contacted all of the patients and managed to screen 23 yesterday.  This is in addition to the main screening set for the week of Dec. 12.  

Palate patients, in particular, are prone to chronic respiratory issues that can be a big contraindication to our anesthesiologists.  We have been successful with our efforts to see the kids a month or more before the surgery to treat any illnesses. Minimizing the number of sick kids who show up for the mission through these proactive efforts allow us to deliver fully on the mission potential.  

Our mission is a huge effort that takes almost a whole year.

 

March 3, 2016

Looking Back at the Mission in Kalibo, By Dave Turnley, Outreach Volunteer

Working Conditions in Pre-Op
The floors were dirty and rarely swept, and it had been quite some time since the floor saw a clean mop. The walls were coated in 1/2 inch thick dust bunnies. There were a few beds in the pre-op ward that looked as if they were used during the Second World War. Just springs and a rusted metal frame without a mattress. There were flattened out card board boxes and bamboo beach mats that had replaced the mattresses. 
 
Luckily, Mending Faces purchased and brought enough camping cots to replace the card board and beach mats, as there was more than 20 beds filling out a room normally used for only 10 beds. It was here that the kids and parents stayed overnight patiently waiting for their number to be called to have an I.V. put in before surgery. Once they were called for surgery, the parent would move to the recovery area and wait for surgery to be done before heading up to the post-op ward. Post-op was where the children were monitored prior to being discharged to go home. This meant that more than 70 people would be staying from 4pm to the next day without air conditioning in 90 degree humid heat in a 40ft x 40ft room and with no windows for a breeze.

This prompted us to purchase fans for the ward so that we did not sweat profusely while volunteers aided in picking up garbage, sweeping the floors, posting charts, and giving blankets, water, toys and coloring books to each child to help them pass the time. It was amazing to see with my own two eyes just how grateful the children were and that they rarely complained. 
 
The pre-op ward was all held together by Jenny, one of the many Mending Faces volunteers and Hanna and her team of Filipino nurses from the hospital. The point of this ramble was one observation – we realized that no matter what your roll is as a volunteer, everyone comes together to help make a difference. So don't complain about a problem, unless you are prepared to do something about it. In this way, I am very thankful to Mending Faces for allowing my wife and me to help in some small way.
 
What Sticks with Me
My “ah-ha moments” were too many to count, but working with a young boy named John was something I will never forget. As I walked around the pre-op room as children were checking in for the evening, I kept coming back to John and his father. Everytime I passed him I tried to play peek-a-boo and get John to say "boo.” I quickly learned that John was five years old, but did not speak much. I followed John for the next 2 days from the pre-op to the operating room to recovery and then to the post-op ward. When I came back to the ward looking for John, I soon spotted that cute smile from across the room. I shouted"John" and before I could say anything else he sat up and played the peek-a-boo game with me and promptly said “Boo!”

During our last morning of the mission, we were able to take John and his father home to a small house in the countryside about a half hour drive from Kalibo. We may never see John again, but one thing I know for sure is we have made a difference in his life and that of his family. All with the help of a great organization called MENDING FACES.
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A Prayer for the 2016 Mission Trip
By Vickie Dawkins, Outreach Volunteer
 
Dear Lord,

Please continue to heal andcare for all of the wonderful kids as they get used to their new smiles. Give them and their families the strength and courage to face the challenges life holds for them.  They have so little and give so much.  For those of us that have much, help us to give more.

Guide, protect and bless all of the amazing members of the Mending Faces team as they return to their families and lives at home.
Thank you Lord for the opportunity to participate in this mission and for the great new friends.

Amen

Feb. 13, 2016

Final Thoughts, by Cathy McNamara

After a great week of surgeries I feel so proud of the accomplishments made by Mending Faces team.

It is pretty amazing from the vantage point of completion when I think back at all the meetings, conference calls, emails and time planning Kalibo 2016, and what went into the making of this Mending Faces medical mission. Many of us are veterans, but many of us were not and I marvel in how we all came together so quickly to coalesce into the well-oiled-machine we became. The relationships and bonds were so quickly formed between us and it goes to show that when we share a common goal, how much we can accomplish! 74 surgeries in one week! The leading actor and actress awards definitely go to our patients and their families, and their unwavering spirit of bravery, to trust us with their most cherished children, truly an act of courage. To be able to witness that alone was the biggest gift of all. Those who were born into such misfortune, yet show such joy and gratitude, they are truly the heroes.  


So when we get back home we take a little break, but soon enough start planning again the next trip, next fundraiser, next mission location, and what we can do better or different, how we can tell our stories to build our following. We hope you all will help us by telling your friends, family, business associates and community about Mending Faces and the story you followed on our blog. We hope you will help to get the word out that people can make a difference half way around the world, and that those who have so little can be so brave and inspiring. And lastly remember this "Every child deserves to Smile."
 

Feb. 12, 2016

Mending Faces Medical Mission 2016: A Huge Success

In just six days, our surgeons performed a total of 74 surgeries, 37 cleft lip surgeries and 37 cleft palate repairs. Our dentists worked with 17 patients, removing a total of 59 teeth. We sponsored 7 children to attend school through our new Education Fund. And our entire volunteer team brought laughter, smiles, and joy to countless children through outreach in the community.

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"I feel so honored and very proud to be a part of the 2016 Mending Faces Mission in Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines," said Dr. Arnold Ibarreta Jayme, 2015 President of the Rotary Club of Kalibo, currently the only pediatric lung specialist in the Kalibo, and longtime Mending Faces volunteer. "I volunteered my services and saw the lives of many children change for the better, and at the same time meeting so many new friends from all over the world!"

Thank you again for helping us make Mission 2016 a HUGE success. Our team, the children we served, and their families, are forever grateful.

A Special THANK YOU to our corporate sponsors:
Davita                        
SCL Health
Touchstone Imaging
Intrado

The Chotin Foundation

 

Feb. 11, 2016

Going Home, By Scott Lawrence Angus MA, MFA (Mission Photographer)

I am very lucky to have been born into an upper middle class family, in a developed country. I have three degrees, a solid career, health insurance, a three story house, two cars and so on. These people have little to no education, a one room house made of bamboo or scrap wood, and often earn very little money. Our worlds could not be more apart. However, we both have souls and our hearts connect in an instance. In just a few short days, I become in many ways like an uncle to the kids; I hold them, feed them, cry with them and just be with them. 

The walls of class crumble and the bond of friendship develops. In their eyes I see their kind and loving spirit, but more importantly I see something that so many of us lack in the developed world; and that is faith in others. If anything I have learned from my twenty years of working on medical missions in the Philippines it is that faith matters. Not so much faith in a higher power, but faith in each other... faith in the family of man. My favorite moment of the mission is when I see the patients going home. My heart breaks to see them go... I love them and they love me. They are my brothers, and my sisters, they are my children and I am their child; we are family no matter how different we are.

Meet John
Sometimes working on a Medical Mission really gets to you. I know that the people we work are poor and have very little, but sometimes I meet someone who has one of the most difficult lives on the planet. On this mission I met a boy named John. He is five years and is the most wonderful little guy, but his life is something that is just so hard. His father we think has early Parkinson issues and is not able to work, his mother died two years ago and his big sister who is fifteen supports the family by picking rice. The Father believes he has a curse on him and that his wife's death, his sickness and his son's deformity came from the curse places on his family.

Our amazing surgeons last year performed a lip surgery and this year a cleft palate surgery on Jon. This boy has everything in the world working against his future, but at lease now he doesn't have a deformed face, he can now talk and he has a chance to go to school, learn a trade and at a very early age become the head of his household.

The father is such a kind person, but it is clear to all of us his health is dire. There is nothing we can do to prevent Parkinson, but we can educate him and tell him he has a real disease that was not brought by a curse, and that his son's cleft palate curse can be lifted.

As I spent time with the father and his son I grew to see how much his father loved his son. I cried knowing that in the near future this boy would be alone with only his sister. My soul hurt like nothing before. Why are some born into hardship, while other into ease?

I simply had to pray that God would take care of this little boy. I was looking through my photographs and I saw this image of the Dad holding his boy right after surgery. It is not a happy photograph, but it is one that to me at least shows the strength and the power of love and in a way the hope he holds for the world. This man has nothing, is cursed with Parkison, and only knows hardship, but somehow he fights on preparing his son for a life that is uphill. His spirit is strong, even though his body is weak.

Life is not fair, the world is cruel, but somehow silently there are heroes who make their way. Please God let this young hero make his way. If anyone deserves a future, a chance, a way... let it be this boy!



From a Father’s Point of View
Chris Pedemonte (Mission Volunteer, Father of Matt Pedemonte)

My son Matthew has been participating in the Mending Faces missions as a surgical technician for each of the past six years.  My wife Lisa participated in last year’s mission in outreach. As a result, I have closely followed the Mending Faces missions all these years. This is the first time I have participated in a mission. I have seen all the post-mission photos and have read all the stories, so I was prepared for the challenges of being in a country that does not quite have the standard of living that most of us take for granted. What I was not prepared for is how beautiful the people are and how content and unpretentious they live their lives. The babies we treat and even the older children seem happy with their families, which is a wonderful reflection on their parents. We know, however that they endure extreme physical challenges and that their social prospects will be difficult to say the least. The innocence of the children is mostly what I was unprepared for.

Another aspect of the mission that cannot be experienced without being closely associated is the absolute cohesiveness, focus, acceptance, dedication and amazing skill sets that every one of the participants bring to the effort. It has been an honor and humbling experience to be able to associate with such a fantastic group.

One look at any one of these children, their parents and siblings and you know instantly that we must do whatever we can to help them live the normal, fulfilled life we all strive for.

Local School Visit,  By Gabby Romero- Outreach

Wednesday February 10th, 2016

Today, a small group of the Mending Faces team got the opportunity to visit a local school in Kalibo. At first, I was a little overwhelmed with the amount of children at the school. The principle rounded up all the children and introduced our team to the school community. Jeremy and Eliza took to the stage to show the children the proper way to brush their teeth, then followed-up by handing out toothpaste and toothbrushes to every child. After the presentation, we got the chance to play with the incredible children. I carried in a basketball and started to play pass with the kids, suddenly there was a swarm of kids all around me! After we played a little basketball, the kids decided they really wanted to play volleyball, so we began to play. Unfortunately, the time to go home had arrived and it was extremely sad to say goodbye to our new-found friends.

As I was hugging, high-fiving and fist-bumping them as more and more children came up to me with small notebooks asking for my autograph. The connection I felt with the kids was unreal and so inspiring that I didn’t want it to end. There were five sweet girls in particular that came up to me announcing that I was their new best friend, so I asked if they would take a picture with me and they screamed with excitement. This visit alone would’ve made my entire year, and certainly the whole trip. Everyone here in Kalibo has been so inviting and welcoming, it’s a beautiful change. Many of the girls even started crying as we were leaving, shouting things like: come back! See you soon, like next week? And asking when I was coming back. It was such a surreal experience, I highly recommend taking advantage of visiting schools in other countries. 

Days 1, 2, and 3 in the Books – Mending Faces Making Impacts All Over

By Jeremy Douglas

It’s hard to believe, but Days 1, 2 and 3 are in the books! We’ve had 37 total surgeries so far and the majority of them cleft palates. Normally we have more cleft lips on any given year, but we are meeting the demand for palates more so this year.

In that same vein, we are meeting new demands as well. Not only do we feel it is our mission and responsibility to provide facial reconstructive surgery to children here in the Philippines, but we also realize there are more ways to provide than just pro bono surgeries. This year, we have especially taken it upon ourselves to find new ways to give other demographics hope and build on their resiliency. Giving takes many forms, and I’d like to share all of the ways our supporters back home and here on the mission are doing it.

Donations to the Hospital

Having spent many hours in these hospital walls has shown our team that we can extend our giving to the facility and its staff as well. This year, we brought in brand new operating tables, which are going to be donated at the end of the mission. Yes, we badly needed these for our mission, as they are more conducive to the surgical process in many ways. We are also donating a new Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) fully equipped for the hospital. The facility did not have a formal unit in year’s past and we decided it was time for a change. Yesterday, we held a short ceremony where Mending Faces officially gave this new unit to the Chief of the Hospital and the other senior members of the medical staff and members of the local Rotary Club of Kalibo.

Of course we also donate extra supplies at the end of the mission as well as cots for the hospital to use for patient care and if you have ever been to the Philippines you know it is hot and muggy. New fans have been purchased and installed throughout the pre-operation and post-operation areas to keep the patients cool and relaxed.

Education Comes First

We are conducting two school visits this year to connect with the local community and provide children everything from books and supplies to new toothbrushes and toothpaste. There will be experience reports shared about these two school visits in the coming days as well.

Another program we are getting off the ground this year is the launch of our new Education Fund. We first want to provide children hope with a new smile, and then opportunity for a brighter future with a formal education. This year, we have a dedicated team here in Kalibo identifying a handful of children in the medical mission to apply for scholarships and support through Mending Faces. There is actually a meeting with the local Rotary Club and governor officials tonight with our team of lawyers and representatives to discuss the various ways we can work together to make this new program as effective as possible.

On a Personal Note

When you visit and interact with people that have so little, but are rich in love, it changes you. It has a profound impact on how you see your own life and what you can do to make a difference. You start expanding your focus on others as opposed to narrowly thinking of yourself. Giving to those who are less fortunate is so much more important than aiming to receive a benefit. And if you can appreciate all of the stories of giving I have shared with you above, I hope you can also understand that giving takes on many forms. Even something as small as giving a hug or a smile can change another for the better. Please make giving a daily occurrence and you will be rewarded with benefits for a lifetime.


Feb. 8, 2016 Day 1 Update from Mending Faces Volunteer Michelle Watkins

It is Super Bowl day at the hospital! This morning, we hit the ground running. The first surgeries are taking place and the hospital is a buzz not only with the amazing volunteers of Mending Faces, but the patients and their families. What an honor to be a part of this mission.  Mending Faces outreach volunteers are also busy at work assembling the many donations for patients and local schools. 


Leesa, is holding a pre-op "bundle." The blanket will be used to cover the patient’s beds both pre and post operation. Inside the blanket, the patient will find some items to keep them occupied while waiting for their procedure. Items included are: a coloring book, crayons, a beanie baby and a Mending Faces cloth to assist in keeping the surgical sight dry. 

Don, Dave and Nick are assembling packages for Mending Faces school outreach projects. Items include: a toothbrush and toothpaste for each student, markers, crayons, pencils, pens and a couple basketballs to be given to the Principal to distribute as needed. 

Earlier this morning, discharge bags were assembled. These Mending Faces backpacks are given to each patient as they leave the hospital. Each bag includes: a set of clothing, a beanie baby, a cloth doll if it's a girl, a large stuffed animal if it's a boy, a Mending Faces t-shirt, frisbee and toy.  All items given to patients and schools are generously donated from various individuals and businesses that support Mending Faces. Thank you! 

Michelle Watkins

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Meet one of our 2016 patients:

May, a 17 year old girl who arrived yesterday at the hospital with her Mother, Aunt and Sister. May is the fifth of eight children in her family. Sadly, the family has no permanent income, and the father travels frequently to find work in the fishing industry.

May is extremely shy and embarrassed to go to school, due to her facial deformity. She often feels left out, and struggles to mingle with other people and make friends.

When the local school principal told May’s family about Mending Faces, she decided to sign up for the free surgery. We are happy to report she successfully had her cleft lip repaired this morning!

May’s mother is thrilled: “The more people know about my daughter’s condition, the better it gets. Big thanks to Mending Faces for making our dreams come true!”

 

Feb. 7, 2016

Family of Three Reflect on Day One, By Jeremy Douglas (Mending Faces Board Member, 2016 Medical Mission Volunteer)

"We need Gods wisdom for the humility to SERVE rather than be served."

It’s hard to describe the group of people that visit Kalibo to participate in the Mending Faces Medical Mission. Dozens of individuals with similar interests, but also very different walks of life. One common thread is strung throughout however, and that is the desire to help others. So is the case of Rhonda, Vickie and Kelsey – a Mom, a Sister and a Daughter/Niece.

How Did You Hear/Learn about Mending Faces?

Kelsey was the trailblazer in the group. Working as a Surgical Assistant at Boulder Valley Plastic Surgery, Kelsey made plans to join the mission back in 2012/2013.

Rhonda, her Mom, said “Every time she comes back, she is filled with exuberance and joy.” Although Rhonda and her sister Vickie hadn’t travelled outside of North America to this point, they were convinced by Kelsey that the trip to Kalibo was worth it.

Kelsey explains it as “You are on “cloud 9” for months after the fact. I’ve never felt so alive.”

For Vickie, getting to help people is such an important aspect in life. A sentiment also shared by Rhonda and her daughter Kelsey. She learned about how the Mending Faces volunteers “bust their tales” and how the local communities in the Philippines appreciate it. The idea of “it’s not about us, it’s about them” rings true in so many ways.

“Back home, people don’t always appreciate that, and giving back just a week of your time feels like you are doing something to make a difference,” explains Vickie.

What’s it Been Like So Far?

The first day both Rhonda and Vickie definitely felt out of there element. They were frightened and overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, smells and fear of the unknown.

“It feels like Kalibo is chaotic,” they both claimed. And it’s true – if you have never ventured to this part of the world, there is certainly a lot to take in and make sense of immediately.

For Kelsey, a Mending Faces veteran, it feels like the roles have been reversed. She is the one looking out for her Mom and Aunt – telling them what to do and how to interact with the culture. Kalibo may be foreign, to say the least, but it also has a profound effect on the mind, body and soul. “You drink the Kool-Aid,” Kelsey says. “And you crave the experience. It does something to you. “Something you would otherwise never know.”  

Just a few days after arriving in Kalibo and visiting the hospital, Rhonda, Vickie and Kelsey say the looks of appreciation warms the heart.

“I already hope to be able to make it and do it again,” explained Vickie. “Seeing the pictures from past missions struck me, but being here and meeting the kids and their families was a “wowing” experience.”

“What you are contributing means the world to these children and their families,” adds Rhonda. “Today, I looked around during screening and it was so hot, and the lines weren’t moving in the hospital, but there were no complaints. These people have a different view on the world. I guess when you have nothing, you don’t expect anything – but if you have everything you expect the world.”

A thoughtful statement that we should all consider in our daily lives, especially back home (wherever that may be). Sure, this is easy to claim and harder to follow, but Rhonda makes a good point here. Perhaps we all have to expect less and try to give more.

So What’s Next?

“We would love to be in the Operating Room (OR) with Kelsey during one of the surgeries,” Rhonda says. We are so proud of Kelsey – she found her passion and it is so special to get to do this with her and my sister. I will be beaming when I get in there with her.”

“Other family members of ours need to do this as well,” said Vickie. “And to my sister’s point, it’s all due to the work Kelsey has already done.”

It’s at this point in the conversation that you can just feel the love in the room between these family members – it’s palpable. I hope that whomever takes the time to read this blog entry is getting that feeling right now.

And then Kelsey turns to her Mom and Aunt and says, “It feels so good to have you both in this element with me, because it’s so much bigger than anything and we get to celebrate the experience together.”

Hugs all around.

In Their Own Words

Day one. (Rhonda, Kelsey, Vickie log) 
We were the very fortunate ones as our entire flight Denver-Tokyo-Manilla-Kalibo went without a hitch. Some of the others had quite a challenging time on their journey to Kalibo. Once in Kalibo (Saturday) we went on a hospital tour to get familiarized. Words cannot begin to express the range of emotions as we took in the sights sounds and smells of a very VERY crowded hospital. 
Day two. SCREENING DAY
We saw photos of patients prior to our trip online and today we actually got to meet the sweet patients and their families. The looks of appreciation and gratitude validates WHY we are here. Tonight we are off to an orientation dinner and tomorrow Monday the surgeries begin. Hugs to our friends and family and supporters back in Colorado. Hi MOM !!

Sincerely,

Rhonda Higgins (Tap, Tap Tap)

Feb. 3, 2016

MIRACLES ARE ABOUT TO HAPPEN By John Kirby, D.D.S. (2016 Medical Mission Volunteer)

Once again the annual trip to the Philippines with Mending Faces is set to occurr in Kalibo, and, as it has before, brought back memories of my first trip to Roxas City in 2013.

I have memories of this little 4 year old girl named Milden, who I first encountered on screening day --  her expression and gesture says it all.  Seeing her case from start to finish was quite inspiring for me, and was a small measure of what was to ocurr on a routine basis for the Missions to follow. You can see her complete story by visiting The Road To Cuartero by David McHale in the 2013 Blog.

Mending Faces mission of “restoring hope to those whose lives are burdened by cleft lip and cleft palate,”  is brought to life once a year.  It is a tribute to all involved, from the surgery personnel to the outreach and administartive staff, all working together.


Feb. 2, 2016

I Cannot Wait To Go! By Stephanie Grosser (2016 Medical Mission Volunteer) 

This is my third year going on Mending Faces’ medical mission. My Dad and I went on our first trip when I was a junior in high school. He had learned about the work they were doing from his colleagues and when I heard about the opportunity I knew I wanted to apply.  I think serving others is such a gratifying experience and I enjoy connecting with and helping these families as they go through this life-changing event. These surgeries are transformational.  Kids who may have suffered a social stigma can now emerge into society with confidence.  To share a part of their journey and to help the team in its important mission is something really special.

Now I am a freshman at Gonzaga University majoring in Nursing. My past missions were also very influential in helping me decide that I want to pursue a medical career.  The doctors and nurses who serve Mending Faces are exceptional and I’ve learned so much from them. I’ve been able to observe the operating room and post-operation care (way more exciting than my Bio class!).  While it’s an extra challenge to miss class while I’m away, and I do need to get that work done on top of my mission work, my professors have been quite supportive. They realize how much this mission means to me and the great opportunity it provides.

I cannot wait to go on the 2016 mission. Every time I go it is a new adventure with more learning, more helping, and deeper connections with my fellow missioners and the Filipino people.

Feb. 1, 2016

My talents are worthless unless they help someone else in this world. By Kara Arnold (2016 Medical Mission Volunteer)

About a year ago I was sitting with my dad in his kitchen and he was telling me about a new friend that he met, Cathy McNamara. He told me that she worked with Mending Faces and all about their mission. I think from that moment on I fell in love with the idea of traveling to the Philippines with these incredible people and helping these beautiful children. It has been a long road since then in terms of coordinating the trip, working with my school and teachers, and convincing my parents. However, through it all I never lost sight of my passion to go on this once in a lifetime trip.

My school, Creighton University, prides itself on service and justice for others. I am always told that my talents are worthless unless they help someone else in this world. My teachers were all excited and understanding about my trip and have been fairly accommodating with my absence from school.

My dream is to become a doctor someday, hopefully working with children. I love being with people, learning about their stories and lending any helping hand that I can. I can’t wait to not only help the children through the outreach position but also see the doctors and nurses at work and hopefully view some surgeries.

I have never been out of the country and I am excited to see other perspectives and cultures as well as learn from the kids and families about their struggles living with a cleft lip or palate. I know the kids will inspire me and give me a new outlook on my life. It will be hard to see some of the struggles that they are going through, it will definitely be a shock for me. I am just thankful I am in a position to help in anyway I can. I honestly have no fears going into this trip. My friends and family do, considering I am flying around the world to a place they have never been and don’t know much about. But I have been surprisingly calm about the whole trip. I think of this trip as a start to my life that will be based upon helping others and hopefully making a meaningful difference in their lives.

I am eternally grateful for the amazing support from Mending Faces, especially Cathy who has made me feel nothing but comfortable and safe throughout this journey. I am counting down the days till I leave and lay in bed at night smiling to myself thinking about what is to come. I can’t wait to see what this adventure brings and the connections I make along the way! All I can say is it truly is a dream come true. 

Jan. 26, 2016

My First Mission Trip, by Teri Ballard (2016 Medical Mission Volunteer, RN)

Hello my new Mending Faces friends! This will be my first mission trip. I have wished I could go on it before now. With children and family I didn’t feel I could afford the time away.  Now I am at a point in my life I can finally take part. After meeting everyone in December, I was so impressed with the organization and all of you. Mending Faces has done so much good since its inception in 2010. It’s rare that you find a group of people so giving of their time and talents. I cannot tell you how delighted I am to be a part of this endeavor. 

I feel very fortunate to have had the resources to become a nurse. I have been nursing since 1994. I had decided to become a nurse because I wanted to contribute. I feel I have provided great care to my patients. However, I feel I have so much more to give. In the U.S., we have so many resources. These children have so few options. I am so fortunate to be a part of this mission. I have so much personal growth to gain by being part of this mission. As said by John Holmes, “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” This will be an exercise for my soul. I have so much to gain, way more than I could ever contribute. 

Thank you to all of you that have already spent countless hours planning and preparing for this mission trip. I am truly in awe of the amazing work you have done. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity. I am forever grateful.

Jan. 8, 2016

One Month Until Medical Mission 2016

Medical Mission 2016 (Feb. 7-12) is just around the corner! In less than a month, our team of volunteers will head to Kalibo, Philippines to perform life-changing surgeries for children in desperate need of cleft lip and palate repairs. Our team of volunteers are made up of medical and non-medical professionals from around the world. 

We just finished a cleft palate screening day in the Philippines and we had 57 patients show up. Our screening days help us learn more about each patient, their health, and the type of surgery they will need during our Medical Mission in February. If any patients are sick, we make sure to prescribe them medicine so they can be healthy for their surgery.  

Here is a photos of one of our cleft palate patients, proud to be getting her surgery next month:

We have partnered with the wonderful organization, Abounding in Love, and they are working with us to find more children in need of cleft lip repairs from the more remote Cebu region of the country.  Stay tuned for more updates here soon. You can sign up for our Medical Mission e-newsletter, which we will send out during our mission, HERE

July 16, 2015

Charity Triple Play!

By: Abby Mathena

We are excited to announce that we have been partnered with the Charity Triple Play Auction to help raise funds for Mending Faces, as well as two other non-profit organizations: Cardinals Care (http://www.cardinalscare.org) and Kids Rock Cancer (http://www.kidsrockcancer.org). This event will not only help Mending Faces and the two other non-profit organizations, but also let St. Louis see the talent that lives within their community.

The Charity Triple Play is organized by the League of Extraordinary Artists of Maryville University to showcase their talents to the community. There will be portraits of Cardinal baseball players such as, Matt Adams, Matt Holiday, Jhonny Peralta, late Oscar Taveras, plus more to be auctioned off. This event will be held on August 16th at 811 Spruce St, Louis, MO 63102.  If you live in the area tickets to the auction will be available for purchase soon at http://kidsrockcancer.org/events/the-charity-triple-play-art-auction-presented-by-maryville-university/. Tickets are $100, which includes the oral and silent auction, hors d’oeuvrse and drinks. You can check out all the portraits up for auction on their website as well!

If you are unable to attend the event donations can still be made on their website. While you’re there make sure to listen to the interview with Sarah Loynd and St. Louis sportscaster John Rooney to hear how Loynd got involved with the Charity Triple Play and how Mending Faces got to be apart of this amazing opportunity. 

June 26, 2015

Meet Our Intern: Abby

Hello Mending Faces! I’m Abby and I’m so excited to be the marketing and events intern for Mending Faces this summer! I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life so being able to work for a non-profit based out of Colorado is an amazing opportunity. I currently live in Fort Collins and go to school at Colorado State University where I’m studying Communications.

Throughout the summer I will be working along side Maya and helping get everything ready for our 6th Annual Rib-Rub-Off event, which will be held in Boulder, CO on August 8th. We have already received some amazing donations for our silent auction from CorePower Yoga, 5280 Chiropractic, Magianno’s and more. I am so excited to prepare for this event and get even more amazing donations to help get these children the surgeries that they need.

I hope to see as many of you as possible at our big event this summer!

April 29, 2015

Mending Faces was chosen as a registered charity for BTIG Charity Day 2015!

Since inception of the event, BTIG has donated over US$30 million to hundreds of charities. Each year, celebrity partners join to help fundraise, and act as ambassadors for their respective charities. Throughout the trading day, all-star athletes, top-recording artists, celebrities from film and television and cultural icons join our institutional traders to raise money for a variety of charities. We were honored to have been one of the charities this year! http://www.btigcharityday.com/

April 21, 2015

Centennial Rotary Club Partners with Mending Faces and presents Board Member Caty McNamara with a $500 check.


Feb. 23, 2015 : DaVita Contribution Huge for 2015 Mending Faces Mission

By Jeremy Douglas, Mending Faces Volunteer, Associate Board Member

Not one person can do everything, but everyone can do something. And when people share a common goal and are able to work together, the things we can achieve are extraordinary. Thanks to DaVita, who played an essential piece in making this desire a reality, the 2015 Mending Faces medical mission was a wonderful success.

DaVita is the largest healthcare provider for dialysis in the world.  Headquartered in Denver with many clinics and outpatient dialysis centers located worldwide, DaVita’s 46,000 plus teammates (employees) are truly on the cutting edge of healthcare programs and treatments to enrich lives.

This past year, DaVita provided Mending Faces, a Denver-based nonprofit, with a $16,000 grant to support its medical mission work in Kalibo, Aklan, Philippines in February 2015. The grant funds have been used to support home dialysis clinics, enable the organizers to purchase supplies and develop 2015 medical mission program, and to purchase a new portable anesthesia machine for the hospital in Kalibo. The financial support was instrumental in aiding Mending Faces’ efforts, where it served 83 total patients (at no cost to them) for 89 total cleft lip/palate and facial reconstruction surgeries in just a matter of five days – a record numbers of patients and surgeries for any Mending Faces medical mission.

DaVita is an Italian word and is literally translated as “giving life.” This instance proved to be no different. Julie Hobbins, a DaVita employee and 5-year Mending Faces volunteer said, “The fact that we are able to provide hope to these impoverished children and families in need is a life changing experience for all.” These sentiments are shared by the entire group of volunteers and Filipino administrators involved in the 2015 medical mission. Giving life is much more than just preservation and providing good healthcare – it is the journey shared by people working towards new hopes and dreams. Sometimes, all we need to give is all we have – and through that understanding, we are all winners in life.

Our journey in 2015 was simply amazing. We built relationships and cultivated new opportunities for years to come. We are so grateful for the support from DaVita and truly appreciated their contribution to our organization and to the community in Kalibo. Thanks to you, the possibilities for many in need are now without fears or limitations.  


Feb. 17, 2015: To Do Another Man a Favor:  By Svein Kornerud, Norwegian Outreach Volunteer of Mending Faces

To be an outreach volunteer of Mending Faces is to be a part of a group of great people with the same attitude and goal as yourself, but at the same time a group of individualists. We all see and experience the society and situations differently. The small talk and sharing our viewpoints may open your eyes to new points of view. 

To be an outreach volunteer of Mending Faces is also to meet another culture with its people, to be open to new impressions, to be open to give all of yourself. There are moments you did not expect to come. One of these days we dropped into a pottery workshop, out of our program. We were not only shown the workshop, but their houses and homes, their surroundings and society.  We were met with a warm and open hospitality and humanity.

Wherever I go, in the hospital, the shops or where we stay, I met Filipino people that are polite, friendly, smiling and that take care of each other, whatever their life is. However poor they might be, they are kind and will give you a smile. We see the differences in the world. It should be a journey of giving, but it is as also a journey of learning. We realize that how you are and how your life will be, depends on the lottery ticket you get in terms of when and where you are born. And we got a ticket better than others, so we could share something and do them a favor.

Again I prefer to say it in the words of someone else. The Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge has a local, Norwegian view and uses local names, but I am sure you will get the universal message of the poem, here translated by Robin Fulton:

Do another man a favour

He came down from the hills, wanted home,

got himself ferried from Osa

out to Øydinsvik. 

And he was open-handed 

and offered to pay

But the man from Osa

was not for sale.

I want to pay

I can’t reach you

To do you a favour.

Than do another man

A favour,

Said the man from Osa

And shoved off.


Day 5: Mending Faces 2015 – Coming to an End

By Jeremy Douglas, Mending Faces Volunteer, Associate Board Member

It’s hard to believe today marked the near end of our medical mission in Kalibo. The week simply flew by, and I’m glad to say we have a lot to show for it. It was difficult to capture all the activity and stories throughout the week, as each one of us traveled along our own personal journeys in the midst of the life changing experiences happening every day in and around the hospital.

Determined to get another early start, our volunteers started filing into the hospital before 7:30am even though many were so tired from the day before (I’d learned that several people didn’t make it out of the hospital until after 10:30 last night). All of our designated areas of the hospital were bustling by 8am, as several of our outreach team prepped to travel to a local grade school here in Kalibo. Upon arrival at the school, we were greeted by heavy rain, the school principal, administrators and some Filipino dentistry professionals who were joining us in our local outreach. We enjoyed various snacks/treats the school had prepared for us, before breaking off into small teams for classroom visits. In the classroom, we taught the importance of oral hygiene and handed out packs of toothbrushes and toothpaste for each child. Quickly we learned how respectful each one of the children was and how thankful they were to have us at their school. After getting a tour of the grounds, which is beautiful, we started leaving just as the kids were getting out of class. The exchange of waves and goodbyes capped off another fulfilling experience for all.

In the evening, the local Rotary planned a wonderful dinner and ceremony to thank Mending Faces. With several big tables, a dance floor, and a photo booth, the event location was perfect to bring everyone together with our local contacts and the Rotary members for a night of celebration and recognition. After a few speeches and stuffing our bellies with perhaps the best food we ate all week, all of the Mending Faces volunteers got up and sang “Sweet Caroline” as a special performance for the Rotary. Shortly thereafter, special plaques and awards were handed out to our leaders and the members of the Rotary that helped us organize and coordinate here in Kalibo. By night’s end, we were all dancing and laughing and sharing stories from the week. Quite a special way to cap off a challenging mission and celebrate all the great work we did together. In all, we treated 83 patients and conducted 89 total surgeries – both records for a Mending Faces mission. By the numbers that included 41 unilateral procedures, 29 palates, 12 bilateral procedures, three fistula procedures, one facial scar revision, one left nostril revision, one left eye mass removal, one pharyngoplasty and multiple dental extractions and procedures throughout.

While it is hard to digest the happenings of this week and put the experience into words (will try to recap more again in a day or two), first and foremost the people are what made everything so exceptional. Regardless of race, religion or country of origin, everyone came together to do something truly inspiring for generations to come. We each played our separate parts well and when all of those efforts came together, the results spoke for themselves. Now an impoverished, but extraordinary group of children have reason and ability to smile and communicate without fear or limitation.

I am so proud of everyone involved and want to say thank you for all that contributed to the great success of our mission this year. We mended much more than faces this week; we mended hopes and dreams to create better lives.



Day 4 – Mending Faces 2015: Long Day, but Well Worth It!

By Jeremy Douglas, Mending Faces Volunteer, Associate Board Member

Today was most certainly the longest day of our mission thus far. After an early start for patient discharges, new patient admittance and surgeries starting before 8am, many people didn’t make it back to the hotel until almost 9pm. Thankfully, two of our volunteers were very kind and proactive and had an ice cooler full of San Miguel (the local beer) waiting for folks back at the hotel. Surgeries were long, and there were 23 total, which made things go slower than usual. It was all worth it, of course, and we had pizza brought in around 7pm to rally our troops. The sweet sauce, thin crust and assorted meats and veggies were just the fuel we needed. We also shared the pizza with the families in the waiting area and they certainly appreciated the snack and it brought some smiles to the kids.

Looking back on the events of today, one activity definitely stuck out in my mind. Some fellow volunteers and I had the pleasure of taking a mother and her daughter home to their house in Kalibo. The daughter (Reever) was a return patient from last year’s mission and was having her cleft palate repaired this week. Several of us piled into a van provided by the friendly folks at our hotel and drove about 20 minutes to River’s house on the outskirts of Kalibo. The van pulled up alongside the small, bamboo style house as it started raining, and we all piled out and into the house via a short but slick walkway. We were quickly greeted by the family puppy named Ninyu, and seven other kids and the father inside. What happened next was something I will never forget.

Being very kind and open, the family ushered us inside and since it was so small, we all had a bit of trouble making it inside at first. We were given a short tour of the house and then settled in near some benches looking out across their property. After taking some cute family photos, we gave the family a few bags of food and supplies, and then proceeded to have the all the kids open a bag full of toys, clothes, shoes and stuffed animals. It was like Christmas! We all shared a bunch of laughs, high-fives and hugs, and the parents were brought to tears of joy, which in turn brought some tears to our eyes as well. The father (Ricky) was so grateful that he wanted to give us something in return. He proceeded to open a bag from the food pantry area that was full of bananas from their property. He gave us three bunches of bananas to take back to the hospital with us and boy were they good! We played with the kids and just enjoyed each other’s company. There were plenty of emotions that were experienced, but I think I felt the most happiness in realizing that while this special family was very poor, they were certainly rich in love.

It will be Valentine’s Day soon, which is huge here in the Philippines, so love is in the air. Make sure to tell your friends and family all that they mean to you because life is more precious by the day.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to keep checking out our social channels for more images and updates!

 

Day 3 – Mending Faces 2015: Outreach in the Community

By Jeremy Douglas, Mending Faces Volunteer / Associate Board Member

After a challenging Day 2 (and Day 1 of Surgeries), our team got to see the post-op children bright and early. The first rounds of surgeries were a wonderful success and it was amazing to see how quickly the children in the post op area were healing! Many of the children were discharged before noon and, thanks to plenty of excellent donations, hard work and team effort, Mending Faces was able to prepare and give each child a parting gift bag. Each gift bag is chock-full of clothes, shoes, toys, stuffed animals, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and more. Additionally, our administrators and photographers worked closely together to create a laminated before and after surgery photo certificate for each departing family as well. More great work by the administration, nursing staff and doctors for coordinating the first discharge process so that we could send the post op patients home happy and in time to make room for the first round of children just getting out of their surgery this morning.

In addition to all the activity happening at the hospital, several of our outreach team volunteers took a day trip a rural school and nearby village to connect with the community and get a taste for the countryside of the Philippines. Upon arriving at the school, the children were so excited to see us return for another year! All of the students filed outside by lines (separated by male and female) where we held a ceremonial introduction for the entire group. We presented the school with supplies and materials, held a demonstration on the importance of brushing their teeth and broke into groups to return to their respective classrooms.

Inside the classrooms we interacted with the students, took plenty of photos and tested their English and grammar. One volunteer in particular did an exercise where she would draw an object on the chalkboard and have the students guess its name. I kid you not (pun intended), they guessed every single object she drew on the board and we were quickly running out of ideas!

Another great project we started this year was a pen pal project between the Filipino students and students from Douglass Elementary in Boulder, Colorado. Led by two of our youngest volunteers on the mission this year, their classmates from boulder had made special t-shirts for the Filipino students before we left and helped assign everyone a matching pen pal. It will be thrilling to see the developments of the global communication taking place between the respective schools.

Last, but not least, our outreach team got to visit a few more sites including some Spanish-style churches and Bayangan Village in Lezo. No doubt the churches themselves were amazing examples of architecture, however the real treat was to see all the pottery made in Bayangan Village. Truly worth exploring if you are ever in the area, this simple yet productive village captured the imagination and truly connected our team to the locals.

More adventures to come and plenty of children still to undergo surgery, but it’s been an incredible experience thus far. Thanks again to all who’ve supported our mission this year and Mending Faces throughout the years – we appreciate every single bit of your help. Be sure to keep checking our social media channels for more pictures and updates.

Blast from the Past!
By Cathy McNamara, Mending Faces Volunteer/ Board Member

Last year, we took this child home after repairing his cleft lip to a one room bamboo shack on stilts in the countryside, where he lived with his 8 siblings, mother and father.  It was a sobering experience for us to see firsthand the rudimentary living conditions.  To our surprise, he appeared with mom again this year in the doctor’s lounge on day 1 of surgery, hoping to have his cleft palate repaired. They must have been overwhelmed when we circled around them cheering that they were back again!  Mom had tears in her eyes when we showed them the family photos that we still had saved on our computer.

They had no family photos or mementos of any kind in their home, which not to mention had no running water, electricity or connection to modern amenities.  You can bet we will be sending them home this year with a photo of their family to remember those years with children.  It feels great to be able to have a continuation of care with the same patients year after year. He is just being taken back to surgery as a write this!

Mending Faces 2015: Day 2 – Let the Operations Begin!

By Jeremy Douglas, Mending Faces Volunteer/ Associate Board Member

Whether we were woken up by the cock-a-doodle-doos of the neighborhood roosters or the short, but heavy downpour of rain, Day 2 got off to an early start. Up and fed and to the hospital before 8am, the eagerness to get started was felt by all. Depending on personal preference, we each arrived at the hospital by trike, by the hotel bus or by simply taking a five minute stroll from our hotel (La Esperanza).

Upon arriving at the hospital, it was made clear our eagerness to get off and running was matched by the children and their families. Heading down the hallway of the waiting area and into the waiting room, all of the children and families were anxiously waiting their turn to be prepped for surgery. Sitting scattered across various cots and benches, our volunteers comforted the Filipinos and we got to learn even more about how they came to join us at the hospital this week (while the medical volunteers were busy taking the steps to prep and begin surgeries). Some of the patients travelled long distances by many modes of transportation; from the Aklan region and other parts of Panay, and even a few from Boracay and beyond. Many of the parents had told us that if it wasn’t for Mending Faces, it would take years of working to be able to save up enough money to afford the operation at hand. Making these connections and better understanding our fellow participants only reinforced our want to help. We knew we were all at the right place, at the right time.

The first look inside the main waiting room

Beyond a lot of time spent in the waiting areas and around the hospital with patients and families, the outreach team volunteers also spent a lot of the day making preparations for the happenings throughout the week. We were prepping the take-home goodie bags for the children, planning/organizing for the forthcoming outreach trips to the local schools on Tuesday and Thursday, and helping the administrative staff with its many duties. Many of the outreach volunteers also had the intellectual curiosity to venture back into the operating room areas to get a glimpse into what these surgeries are like and all that it takes.

Being one of the folks that wanted to see these operations firsthand, I quickly realized that I was in the presence of some of the world’s best medical professionals. Upon observing the four operating tables going at once (all in the same room), it was truly like watching a well-choreographed dance that on the surface seemed like organized chaos. The team effort being put forth by the nurses, surgeons, doctors, dentists, anesthesiologists and surgical assistants (and more) was simply amazing! I could tell they’d done this many times before and if it was me going in for one of these surgeries, I would have the utmost confidence in being in their hands.

And so Day 2 concluded with many tired faces, and aching feet and backs, but we all know the effort put forth was more than worth it. While we have more days like this ahead, the forthcoming experiences will be shared with new patients, under different circumstances and from different parts of the region. We couldn’t be more excited to continue on this path!

One final note is to reinforce for our friends and families at home just how amazing this group of individuals is that we have on the mission this year. Some have been doing this for years, and for others, this is their first experience. When I get a moment to step back and look at all we are able to accomplish – even in one day – you know it’s because of the strong people we have on our team that are not just willing, but driven to help others in need. One nurse in particular even took the time to donate breast milk to the hospital in her free time – something she plans to do every day this week! That is one example of what I mean.

All is well and off to a good start here in Kalibo, and be sure to keep checking our social media accounts throughout the week for more photos and information.

THE DREAM, By Svein Kornerud, Mending Faces Volunteer from Norway

Why have I left my home, my country, the snow and the skiing

(Which I love)

Why have I left the comfort of using my own language

(Which I don’t like)

 Have you tried to be without your language? Have you known that feeling?

 It’s all to take part at work in a hospital.

 (I usually hate to be in a hospital)

 I left my home to stay in a town with a lot of traffic, noise and pollution.

(Which I hate, all of it)

 So why have I done this?

To experience children getting the opportunity for a better life! To see children have an operation in the middle of their face, and in/around their mouth, which is one of the first things you observe of another person. We are making it possible for them to be able to eat in a better way, to have better speech, and to be able to be understood and accepted much better in society. We get to see them be happy to go to school and meet other children. I left the comforts of my home to be a small part of a group that will give children an opportunity and a new life – a life they have dreamed about. Perhaps this is their only opportunity in their lives. I get to observe the gratitude from their parents, the smile and gratitude in their eyes, and to see the children and their parents have their dream come through Perhaps these feelings would be best described by a poem:

This is the Dream, By Olav H. Hauge (Norwegian poet), Translated by Robert Bly (American poet)

 This is the dream we carry through the word

that something fantastic will happen

that is has to happen

that time will open by itself

that doors shall open by themselves

that the heart will find itself open

that mountain springs will jump up

that the dream will open by itself

that we one early morning

will slip into a harbor

that we have never known.

Mending Faces: February 8, 2015- Day 1 – Screening Day

By Jeremy Douglas, Mending Faces Volunteer/ Associate Board Member

The first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one.

Several years ago, a group of committed and courageous individuals chose to take it upon themselves to address an issue that wasn’t getting enough attention. While children born with cleft lips and/or cleft palates affect nearly every country across the globe, developing nations are suffering its impact the most. Good healthcare can be harder to come by in these nations and many don’t have the resources to fund such a procedure. This is a problem recognized by many, but that only a few are trying to solve.

Today, the Mending Faces organization began its annual medical mission in the Philippines in the familiar territory of Kalibo, Aklan to provide children and their families with a new hope. The day started off rainy, and a bit hectic, but that wouldn’t drown out the enthusiasm and excitement from the Mending Faces team or the Filipino children and their families. This is because we all came together to do something special – to be a part of a solution for years to come.

The medical screening process began promptly at 9am with more than 80 children and their families from all over the region flocking to the hospital in Kalibo for a new opportunity. The volunteers had to be quick and effective, as there was little time to waste in prepping materials for the operating room and re-establishing our familiarity with the hospital and its systems.

In all, 74 children were approved for surgery this week, meaning the 2015 mission is off to a promising start. While this is but the first step to a long and demanding process, the energy around the hospital was palpable from the start and lasted well after the screening was finished. By midday, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining – a sign of good things to come.  

After wrapping up the activities at the hospital, we turned our attention towards a wonderful night with an orientation dinner at a local restaurant called Mix and Match. We shared plenty of laughs, got to know each other better, and continued to keep our minds keenly focused on the days ahead. I for one am proud to be in the company of so many charitable and kind-hearted individuals.

We know we have a long way to go, but it was excellent kick-off to the week.  A big “hats off” goes to the organizers and our administrative liaisons here in the Philippines for bringing everything together after months of local outreach and planning.

Check back tomorrow for an update on a recap of the first day of surgeries and as we prep for our first of two outreach projects in the community. And be sure to check out our social media accounts for more photos and updates throughout the week!

And They Are Off!

Our team of volunteers are on their way to the Philippines! Some left on Wednesday, most yesterday and some are on their way today. It's a long two day journey! Once everyone arrives safely in Kalibo, there will be a group dinner. Then patient screening begins on Sunday- a busy day for both our medical and non-medical volunteers! Below are some photos of the team as they began their journey together in the airport.


St. Joe's Provides Grant, Volunteers and Medical Supplies

Feb. 5, 2015

We are proud to announce that Saint Joseph Hospital in Denver provided a $7,500 grant, volunteer nurses, and medical supplies for our upcoming 5th annual medical mission!
 
Saint Joseph Hospital, which provides a continuum of care from managing chronic disease, to helping families prepare for the birth of their babies, recently moved to a new location just down the block from its old building, to 19th and Downing. While preparing to move, they had used medical supplies that they wanted to donate and Mending Faces was one of the local nonprofits that Saint Joseph Hospital generously partnered with for donations.

The donated medical supplies included three Bovie electrocautery units, suction machines, and IV poles. The grant, Saint Joseph Hospital volunteer nurses, and the supplies will help Mending Faces’ upcoming 2015 medical mission to provide free surgery to 70 impoverished children in the Philippines born with cleft lip and cleft palate.

“We are honored and grateful for the support from Saint Joseph Hospital,” said Dr. Mimi Wong, Mending Faces Founding Member and Board Chair. “Every dollar we receive and every piece of medical equipment donated goes towards helping us on our mission to provide children with new smiles that are in desperate need of reparative surgery. It’s amazing to see two local organizations team up for such a great cause.”

 

DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. Supports Mending Faces

Jan. 23, 2015

Mending Faces is pleased to announce that DaVita HealthCare Partners Inc. has generously supported us with a grant, helping our team bring smiles to more children in the Philippines.

DaVita is a Fortune 500® company that, through its operating divisions, provides a variety of health care services to patient populations throughout the United States and abroad. A leading provider of dialysis services in the United States, DaVita Kidney Care treats patients with chronic kidney failure and end stage renal disease.

DaVita—which is Italian for "giving life"—has more than 46,000 teammates (employees) around the nation working to provide superior patient care. One teammate is our very own Associate Board Member, Julie Hobbins.

Here are a couple of photos of Julie and some of her DaVita teammates:


Three Weeks Before the Mission!

By Cathy McNamara

Jan. 15, 2015

We are at the three weeks and counting down to departure date and I have so much to be excited about! I know there are at least 60 children who will be changed forever by the surgery we will do, and their parents will have hope restored for a much better future for their children. But we also have the opportunity to impact hundreds of other children we encounter on our outreach programs to the schools teaching dental education, and this year, helping to build a library for a school damaged in last years Super typhoon that swept across the island of Panay.

I am excited to again have the opportunity to be inspired by people who have so little, yet show so much gratitude and joy. This is my fourth trip with Mending Faces, and each time, I come away with my cup running over with inspiration from people who have so little. It is a big dose of what is real, what is important and how each day counts. In our lives in the West, we have so much, not only in possessions, but distractions and what we take for granted, I can't wait to reconnect with the simple lessons that come from these wonderfully brave and joyful children we meet. Hopefully I may have a chance to see this little girl again. She was a patient with a bilateral cleft lip, and I would love to see her smiling face again!

Patient Screening

By Bles Codova (Mending Faces Mission Liaison in the Philippines)

Jan. 12, 2015

The screening started two weeks ago- the same day I was interviewed about Mending Faces and the screening on air thru DYKR radio station. I have made additional radio announcements about the screening thru GMA network.

We had 15 patients last Monday, 22 patients yesterday and 13 patients today. Dr. Arnold Jayme conducted the consultation on the patients. He requested CBC on most of the patients and only a few were submitted for x-rays since the children were asymptomatic of cough and were quite healthy. The patients were all given multivitamins and other medications prescribed by Dr. Jayme. Since the laboratory result is released in the afternoon and Dr. Jayme is only available until noon, we refer the CBC result to the OPD Pediatrician on duty. Some patients have high WBC count and were requested to submit for urinalysis. Those who were found to have UTI as well as those patients who have defects visible on chest x-rays and were symptomatic of productive coughs were given antibiotics and were advised for repeat urinalysis and x-rays after completing the course of treatment. We are still expecting more patients to come for screening tomorrow!

Kids Helping Kids

Jan 7, 2014

By Usha Barry

What a wonderful day I spent at Douglass Elementary school in Boulder, Colorado, preparing for Mission 2015. Over 400 students "lent a hand" with school t-shirts destined for the children having surgery with Mending Faces next month. The kids learned a little about the Philippines and cleft lips/cleft palates, and were very enthusiastic about getting messy for the cause!  

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Update on Mission 2015

December 29, 2014

By Maya Brook

It's hard to believe that Mission 2015 will be underway in less than six weeks! 20 boxes of supplies which we mailed this fall, are arriving in Kalibo. The mission team is set and licensed, and rooms and transportation are arranged.

We have identified more than 65 prospective patients and are holding a health screening for them the week of January 5th. We are also continuing to recruit patients and hope to locate 10 to 15 more before the mission.
 
Screening is important to ensure that the patients are healthy and ready for surgery. More than 80% will have chronic respiratory issues (particularly those with cleft palates) that we need to address before putting them under with general anesthesia.

With the support of the Kalibo Rotary and their President who is a pediatric pulmonologist, Dr. Arnold Jayme, we conduct a complete exam, blood tests, x-rays, a variety of other tests and then provide the appropriate medicines and multi-vitamins to every patient. Mending Faces funds everything including travel for the patient and their families, meals during screening, medicines and vitamins.

Our recruiting efforts have led us further into the rural parts of the province. These areas have limited contact with the outside world and continue to have a barter economy so that families have no way to pay even a few dollars for the bus trip to Kalibo or feed their families when they get there. Mending Faces is committed to doing what is necessary to help the most deserving of patients get the surgery they desperately need.
 
Below is a photo of our hard-working mission liaison, Bles Cordova, RN in front of the first shipment of boxes received in Kalibo plus 40 boxes of supplies and equipment stored since the last mission.

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And, meet two year-old Lea, one of the many children who will receive a life-changing surgery this February:



Thoughts from Alison Gates (Fall '14 Intern)

Dec. 23, 2014

By Alison Gates

When I first heard of Mending Faces, I was ignorant to the problem of cleft lip and cleft palate faced by millions across the world. I had no personal connections to anyone who had a cleft lip, and didn't even realize that cleft lip and cleft palate were not synonyms. I learned that this condition greatly affects an individual's life, causing problems with eating, drinking, speech, and societal acceptance. Understanding these implications connected me to the cause, and made me a strong supporter of Mending Faces and the positive work they are doing to provide free surgeries to children so that they may not suffer with this condition

I was shocked to learn that the cause of cleft lip and cleft palate has not yet been identified, and the condition is becoming more prevalent. This leads to the sense of urgency to provide surgeries to those affected with the condition, as the problem grows larger every year. This explains why Mending Faces can return to the same region in the Philippines year after year and still have many individuals who need the restorative surgery. Without the work performed by Mending Faces and other similar organizations, thousands of individuals would be enduring a difficult life of seclusion, bias, and health problems.

While the need to understand the cause of cleft lip and cleft palate is imperative, this onus is upon the scientific community. Rather than wait for this inevitability, it makes me feel good that there is something I can do today: contribute to a cause that is helping relieve the burden of cleft lip and cleft palate on an individual, volunteer on a mission trip on an outreach team, and help educate others on this problem facing millions. My hope is that when enough individuals feel the urgency to help in the same way I do, we can get ahead of the problem by providing surgeries for every child born with cleft lip and cleft palate. 

Mending Faces radio ad running in Kalibo to recruit more patients for our upcoming Mission!

Dec. 15, 2014

Anxiously Waiting to Smile

Dec. 11, 2014

By Jeremy Douglas

In my opinion, 2014 has just flown by. Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten busier over the past year or maybe it’s because as I get older, my perception of time has changed. It’s probably a combination of both, but I think it also has something to do with Mending Faces. After a successful mission with more than 60 patients served in Kalibo, followed by two successful fundraiser events and the addition of new board and team members, the organization has achieved a lot in 2014.

But for those of you who know me, I was all set to embark upon my first mission this past February until a very weird bout of pneumonia caused a late cancellation of my trip (the day before to be exact). At the time, it was demoralizing – months of prep and planning seemingly down the drain and a serious illness to boot. But after initially feeling sorry for myself, I soon recognized that even if I didn’t have a reason to smile at the time, under-privileged children half way around the world had plenty of reason to. This realization not only made me feel a sense of happiness and appreciation, but also inspired resolve from within.

The 2015 trip will be my second attempt at joining the medical mission team and I couldn’t be more excited. Travelling half way around the world to do something I have never done before definitely pushes the bounds of my comfort zone, and I am anxious to discover new ways of life, while helping those in need. Any worry or concern that I feel leading up to the mission is quickly trumped by recognizing the privilege I have to join such an amazing group of individuals. And for one week, we can put aside our fast-paced way of life and focus on one thing together – giving. This is what I call therapy for the soul and I hope to embrace each and every moment, no matter how tiring it or challenging it proves to be.

But as we get prepped for the mission this February, I also can’t help but think of what the children and their families in the Philippines are contemplating right now. I hope to talk with them about their experiences leading up to the days of surgeries, but I hope they are getting as excited as I am to turn the page on a new chapter in our lives, albeit for different reasons. I know it’s very important to embrace the present and not put too much focus on the past or the future, so for now I will try to remain as healthy as possible and bottle my excitement to apply that energy wherever it is needed for Mending Faces as we prep for 2015. Being that I will help lead the blogging project on the trip this year, I hope to collaborate with everyone to make our content as exciting and in-depth as possible. If you have any ideas or suggestions, I am all ears (jdoug875@yahoo.com)!  

In the meantime, I urge you to take a moment and reflect on all of the good in your life and be thankful of the things that put a smile on your face. If you really stop and think about it, there is immense power in this process. To give a holiday example, I am thankful to be part of an organization that is giving a gift that cannot be held or purchased in a store – and it is something that will keep on giving long after we leave Kalibo. Want to know what will keep me smiling well into the New Year? The fact that while I am getting anxious for the experience of a lifetime, some 70 children and their families are anxiously waiting for a new smile and therefore, outlook on life.

Thanks to all that make this happen and Happy Holidays!

Double Smiles!

Nov 26, 2014

By Maya Brook

Our on-the-ground Mission Liaison, Blesiah Anawin Cordova, is working hard with Rotary President and pediatric pulmonologist, Dr. Jayme Arnold, to recruit patients for the mission.  At last count we are at 63!  We are hoping for between 70 to 80 patients total.  Among our 2015 patients are twin three year-olds, Baron and Juren, who will soon be proud of their smiles and learn to talk and communicate like their peers! Below is an adorable photo of them. (Looking forward to sharing their after-surgery photos in February!)

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The Most Important Thing You Will Ever Wear… is the Expression on Your Face

Nov 6, 2014

By Jeremy Douglas

No one knows who said this phrase, but it is an important idea to consider for many reasons. For example, how do we talk about courage? How do we talk about intimacy? How do we talk about identity? We talk about the face. We face our fears. We discuss important things face-to-face. We know someone when we can put a name to a face. The face is the conduit for expressing the most basic and fundamental human emotions.

These are the ideas the Daniel Wennogle, a Denver-based Civil Litigator and Trial Attorney, plans to bring to light this coming Friday at the Fourth Annual Restoring Hope Event (hosted by DecorAsian to benefit Mending Faces). Before Dan found his passion for practicing law and participating in court, and before he became a die-hard Broncos fan and an avid fly fisherman, he was a child born with a cleft lip and palate.

If you have never heard of a cleft lip or cleft palate, it isn’t as rare as you might think. In fact, according to a study by the World Health Organization, a child is born with a cleft lip or palate somewhere in the world approximately every two-to-three minutes. While the cause is currently unknown amongst medical researchers, it is one of the more common birth defects worldwide.

“I was lucky,” Wennogle says. “I was born with a cleft lip and palate in the United States of America with a caring and devoted family that had access to top notch medical resources. As a result, I had a normal, happy and healthy childhood. I’ve also been able to make friends, be outgoing and have good social relationships. I’ve been captain of sports teams, played lead roles in plays, and most importantly, I’ve been able to know what it feels like to fall in love.”

Now imagine another child half way across the world living in the Philippines that isn’t afforded the same opportunity to gain the access to medical care like Dan had received. In these situations, ear disease and dental problems can occur frequently, as well as problems with speech development. These children are also typically shunned by society and therefore cannot experience the same quality of life as “normal” children without cleft lips or palates.

A cleft lip and/or palate surgery is by no means simple, but it is not as involved as some major surgeries performed for children with more serious health issues. Yet, this manageable level of medical care can literally change the world for a child and their family because it can change the way he or she interacts with people. “Our faces are how we interact with the world,” Wennogle continues. “A smile, a kiss, a spoken word; all of these things are difficult and compromised with a cleft lip and/or palate. Yet these things lie close to the core of what it means to feel human.  This surgery is much more than cosmetic because it changes lives for the better and I am a living example of that.”

Dan is correct. Research shows the recognition of faces is an important neurological mechanism that an individual uses every single day of their life. Our brains are literally hardwired to trigger instant reactions based on the image of a human face and any distortion in that image makes it more difficult to pick-up on nonverbal communication, such as emotion. Those that are born with a minor birth defect like a cleft lip can suffer deeply from this subconscious differentiation.

And it is because of this neurological construct that Dan recognizes, along with the life he has led, happiness he’s enjoyed and the passion he shares that inspires him to want to give back to children in need. “I wanted to get involved with a local grassroots nonprofit called Mending Faces that brings wonderful people together with a strong commitment to making a large impact on children’s lives that were born with a cleft lip and/or palate.”

In February of 2015, a group of volunteers (with both medical and nonmedical backgrounds) will to travel to the Philippines with a goal of performing 60 cleft lip and palate surgeries for children in need and at no cost to their families. The group will also be bringing along supplies, equipment and care packages to help the children and their families cope with the hardship of surgery. It takes planning, effort and money to get these volunteers (who donate their own time and pay their own way) and the necessary supplies to the children in need.

“We (Mending Faces) and our gracious hosts from DecorAsian are holding a fundraiser this Friday, November 7th, 2014, called Restoring Hope to raise the money needed to implement our shared vision of bringing a truly life changing force to children in need,” explained Wennogle. “For a child with a cleft lip or palate to receive the opportunity of a lifetime, all we ask is that you lend a small amount of support that will make a difference for an entire lifetime.”

To support Mending Faces or to purchase tickets to the Restoring Hope event, please visit: http://www.mendingfaces.org/. The event starts at 6:00 PM and will include food, beer, wine, live music, art, a silent auction and more!

Restoring Hope Coming Up!

Sept. 29, 2014

Alison Gates

Live music, savory appetizers, libations, and dancing are sure to make the night of November 7th one to remember at Mending Faces 4th Annual Restoring Hope event. The event has grown to be a major fundraiser for Mending Faces to help fund restorative surgeries for children in the Philippines with cleft lip and cleft palate, and hopes are high that this year's event will draw the largest funds yet. An exclusive silent auction featuring luxury items along will be featured, as well as the musical talents of Wendy Woo and the Narrow Gauge Band.

Once again, this year's event will be held in the stunning DecorAsian gallery in Denver featuring a silent auction, sound stage, two beer and wine bars, and appetizers. The proprietor has also generously offered a 30% discount on all items in the gallery, with 15% going to Mending Faces. Tickets are on sale now for $75 each. Tickets will be available at the door on the day of the event.

Fundraising events such as the Restoring Hope event are vital to Mending Faces because they help raise money to perform surgeries in the Philippines to children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate. These life-changing facial reconstructive surgeries could not take place without the donations we receive, so with grateful hearts we hope to see each of you on November 7th, 6:00pm, at DecorAsian in Denver!

2014: Rib Rub-Off

Aug. 10, 2014

By Maya Brook

Our 5th Annual Rib Rub-Off on August 2 was a huge success. I'm happy to announce that we raised $18,000! We had a silent auction, live music, classic cars on display, yard games, a pool for kids, and of course great food! The BBQ was hosted by Board Members Sami and Carrie Lababidi at their amazing home in Boulder. The Rib Rub-Off victory for best ribs was a tie between Mending Faces Chair, Dr. Mimi Wong and Dr. Sami Lababidi!

Because of our BBQ in Colorado and very generous donors and volunteers, Mending Faces will be able to change the lives of children halfway around the world!

Photos from the talented Rhonda Diltz can be found at: http://1drv.ms/Xw1pl3

2014: Service With a Smile

Feb19

By David McHale

Have you ever been to one of the big hardware stores and wondered “where is the helpful hardware man hiding?” Or, visit a department store, say the one that starts with an “M” and rhymes with “spacey” and could not see a clerk anywhere? That is not the case at the stores here in Kalibo. Last year, I blogged about my 17 trips to the Gaisano’s in Roxas City, the only name in malls on the Island of Panay. I am sure they miss me this year. My first shopping outing this year took me to a hardware store called “Handyman.” It looks like your average neighborhood hardware store with one glaring exception – the place is crawling with help. Imagine a world where the clerks at the hardware store gently remove the light bulbs you wish to purchase from their packages and individually test each one? Or, when you ask whether they have a particular light array (for the operating room) and an entire posse of helpers willingly and happily set about locating it? Unexpected. Amazing. I am not used to such service and admittedly a little creeped out by it (for a jaundiced American, can someone be too attentive?). But am I also happy that each one of them have a job that they enthusiastically embrace? Yes, and its easy to get used to.


Blog from Karen Johnson

Feb19

How do you capture in words the effects of five days in a foreign country, even though it is in a setting you are familiar with? This mission to Kalibo was my first trip to Asia and will be a high point in my life. Emotionally, it has been rewarding and soul-searching. Seeing the children and knowing we are giving them a chance of a healthier life is the greatest gift of all. Walking the halls of the hospital has been surreal at times and difficult to process. By day three, the sights and sounds no longer stood out. You just want to get done what has to be done in the short time you are here. I hope I have helped these families through this challenging and exciting time. They have given much more to me than they will ever know.

Final Thoughts from Our Volunteers

Feb14 

Here is a collection of thoughts from a few members of the Mending Faces volunteers from the 2014 trip to Kalibo:

It was a difficult job working in recovery op ward. After we started an intervene line, the child was dressed for surgery.   This is one of the most intense jobs I have ever had. It’s very rewarding. I couldn’t wait to see him in post op - from Kerry Ariana, RN

The kids in the post op ward were scared of the blue scrubs, but I had a secret weapon – a teddy bear. Once I smiled and shook the bear the child smiled and laughed. It was magical, moving and powerful – from Kerry Arellano, RN

I came in to the ward with the photos of post and pre op. The child ran to my arms grabbed the picture and did a dance – she was so happy! As I teared up she came over and hugged me. In a rare moment she let me hold her. It was awesome – from Tony Thirodopolous 

I helped release a family from the post op ward and they needed help carrying the fan they had brought from home. I walked with them to the exit and I realized they had brought the contents of their entire house and they were taking a tuk tuk home. I helped them load the gear and the mom started crying, and hugging me. They were so thankful as I was to be a part of it!- from Scott Angus

I was so happy to be part of the process of giving pre and post op photos. It was so emotional, I teared up as the mother of the child thanked us for our work – from Cathy McNamara

The kids are amazing. What a powerful experience – from Barbara Allen, MD

Local Outreach in Kalibo – Dental Education Program

Feb14 

By Cathy McNamara

The school we visited for one of our dental education programs was also a recipient of a rotary donation to repair the roof that had been torn off due to typhoon Yolanda back in November.  Our visit also coincided with the special dedication of the new water treatment facility and school reconstruction.  The school was a small rural school in a poor part of the province that I am sure no white people had ever visited before.  The children had nothing in their classrooms, but their desks, and not a single thing on the walls.  It was a blank environment void of any bright or child centered decorations.  It broke my heart to see that these teachers had no materials to enrich their learning environment whatsoever.  Luckily, we had brought three bags of art supplies ranging from scissors, bright paper, glitter, glue, markers and the big boxes of crayons, etc.  The kids seemed delighted when we sat down and drew pictures of cats, dogs and flowers.  Though it felt good to be able to add something fun to their day, I also felt sad knowing they still need so much more.

 

Mothers by Usha Barry – Day 2 in Kalibo

Feb12 

Sometimes small things can shift your perspective powerfully.  That is what happened to me here on Day 2 in Kalibo.  I spent the early part of the day distracted by an issue with my return airline ticket to the U.S.A.  Then, late in the afternoon as I brought a five-year old boy into the recovery room after his cleft lip repair, his mother handed me the following note:

Dear Doctor,

Thank you very much for the time, effort and kindness you gave to us.  This day will always be remembered as my son lives with us, his whole face is the proof of your generosity.  Thank you very much for giving him the chance as a new and a whole person ready to face for his more brighter future.

Once again thank you very much and God Bless!!!

Sincerely yours,

Morlie M. Acain

(Mother of Feolo Isaac M. Acain)

I read the words, looked up to see her tear-filled, smiling face watching me, and I was immediately brought back into the moment – all thoughts of paperwork hassles and plane tickets pushed aside.  Although I know that the “Doctor” she addresses is really a whole team of people (nurses, surgical assistants, physicians and support volunteers), I was grateful to be the one who was handed that letter.  I really needed the shift in focus.  For the first time that day, I stopped and took a really good look around…  This is what I saw:

Everywhere, mothers – caring, worrying, praying, happy, relieved, hoping, and sharing the pain of their children.  Not to discredit the fathers, but today I looked up and saw only mothers.  So, thank you mothers for reminding me why we do this and what it means.  This blog is for you.

And BTW, Happy Valentine’s Day, Mom!

Jawili School Visit – by Marc Grauberger

Feb11

A team of eight Mending Faces Outreach volunteers had the privilege of visiting Jawili Integrated School, a private elementary school located several kilometers outside Kalibo and just a few hundred feet from the ocean.

More than three hundred bright smiling faces quickly filled an outdoor covered gymnasium in orderly fashion. An aire of electricity pulsed from the chatting uniform clad and well-behaved student body. Team members interacted with students in various ways, often posing for pictures with the suddenly shy, yet still smiling, students.

The primary purpose of our visit, dental hygiene, was addressed by handing each child a toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste and a coloring book detailing the essential components of good oral hygiene.

Before returning to their classrooms, the children left us with a heartfelt and energized “Thank you Mending Faces” farewell. Our team left the school filled with the energy and smiles bestowed upon us by the future leaders of this remarkable and resilient nation.

Released our First Patients Today by Scott Angus

Feb11 

Today we released our first patients! It was awesome to see how happy they were to go home. The cleft lip patients are required to stay for one night, so being the second day, we said goodbye to eight patients today.  We gave each of them lovely handmade quilts, stuffed animals, t-shirts, books and toy cars. The kids’ recovery is difficult and painful, but our nurses and outreach team keep their spirits up. The parents are elated when they see how well their child is after just one day of recovery. The swelling and surgical lines begin to calm and their new beautiful faces emerge. When this happens, the family of the child is filled with absolute joy in hopes that their child will begin a new life where they are not teased, bullied or considered an outcast.

Here are some more photos from today:

Surgery room with our dedicated team of medical professionals

Screening Day from Scott Angus

Feb10

Mending Faces screened fifty-four patients today. The team arrived in the early morning and was greeted by fifty-five patients that traveled many miles to have the free surgery. Families waited to be seen by specialists from around the world including speech therapists, plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, and dentists. This is when the patient’s pre-operation pictures were taken.

Volunteers were dealing with extreme heat and difficult conditions, but the families were in good spirits as they were filled with extreme excitement for what awaits them in the next few days.

Scott Lawrence Angus MArt, MFA

Travel Blog from Kelsey

Feb9 

My first trip abroad and my first medical mission! I was excited, but my fear of flying was in the back of my mind. Three hours before my departure, I received a call from American Airlines that the flight from Denver to Los Angeles was cancelled and they wanted to reschedule me for the next day. I stressed to them there was no way that was acceptable because I had a string of international connections to make from Los Angeles. I was flying to Korea, Manilla and then Kalibo. Then I bumped into Tony, a fellow Mending Faces volunteer, and we were on the same flight that got canelled, so we figured it out together. I had already taken my vallium for my fear of flying and we were running around the airport, terminal to terminal, trying to solve this problem! The song “Never Let Your Fear Decide Your Fate” resonated  in my brain, and I knew I could figure it out! Luckily, we rerouted to Phoenix and were able to join the rest of the group in Los Angeles. Now that I’ve arrived, I am so exstatic to get started!

Kelsey

Giving More than a Smile

Feb8

Mending Faces – Giving More than a Smile

By Jeremy Douglas, First Year Volunteer

The first time I ever came in contact with the Mending Faces organization was at the (now) yearly barbeque fundraiser in Boulder, Colorado. Simply put, I had no idea the organization centered its cleft palate surgery program in the Philippines. I’d heard about all of the wonderful work the organization had done with children needing cleft palate surgeries, but I didn’t realize all of this work was being completed in Southeast Asia – let alone in such an underprivileged area where cleft lips and palates affect some 4,000 plus newborn babies ever year.

Quickly I learned just how passionate the volunteers for Mending Faces are and just how big of a problem they are addressing. Looking at pictures and reading information from past missions spurred my interest further, but it was the stories being exchanged at the barbeque and the discussions between the volunteers that made me examine my own life and ask “What have I done to help others in need?”

I regret to say, not enough, especially compared to those that make sacrifices every year to take part in this medical mission. Suddenly, this thought drove deep because I have already lived a privileged life at the young age of 26. I basically have the opportunity and support around me to do basically whatever I choose – all that matters is whether or not I would decide to pursue these opportunities. In pondering this thought, I felt inspired to take action from the urge to want to give back and help support the underprivileged that have limited opportunity. I started to understand what it meant to take part in such a challenging, but wonderful journey the Mending Faces volunteers embark upon ever year.

While no one can do everything, everyone can do something. I believe this truth is evident and exemplified by the Mending Faces organization because each year dozens of volunteers and even more benefactors join together for a greater cause – to change the lives of children and their families forever. As we are fast approaching our mission in February, I am realizing that our goal is not just to provide free medical care and a brand new smile to those in need, but rather a new beginning to children whom otherwise would lead lives of potential isolation and shame. Mending Faces is helping open doors to the opportunities these children might otherwise never know and experience. From someone lucky enough to have a range of opportunities ahead of him, I don’t think there could be anything more ideal to pass along to others.

I am so very thankful for the opportunity to join the team in Kalibo this year and am looking forward to doing the best I can to help create new pathways for these children and their families. I know everyone on the team is looking forward to all that this journey will bring and I can’t wait to work side by side those that share such a strong passion for creating not only a beautiful smile, but a new sense of hope. With a lot to learn and even more to give, I am excited to be one of the newest members of a Mending Faces organization that inspires the urge to give to a greater cause and provides a lifetime of smiles.

Arnest Gene Gonzales Aguirre

Feb7

Arnest Gene Gonzales Aguirre- by Cathy McNamara

Of all my Facebook friends, I have one very special friend named Arnest, a little boy who I befriended following our medical mission to Roxas City last year. He is a former patient of Mending Faces, and has already had two surgeries, one for his left cleft lip and the second on his palate. Nestlene, his mother, has kept in touch with many of us who have gone on past trips to the island of Panay. Facebook has proven to be a wonderful way for Mending Faces to maintain contact with our patients, and has spawned new ideas of how we can follow up on outcomes, and learn more about the post-op issues of our patients. We decided to send a few interview questions to Nestlene to learn more about the impact, both short term and long term, of the work that Mending Faces does.

Arnest has also become the Mending Faces “poster child” promoting awareness for Mending Faces on a billboard located on 18th Street in downtown Denver, Colorado.

Questions:

Mending Faces (MF): What impact has the cleft lip and palate surgeries made on your son’s life?
Nestlene: After the first operation Arnest opened himself up to people around him and gave him a life anew.

MF: What has this surgery meant to you?
Nestlene: It gave me big hope that my son will gain more confidence. I cannot afford to pay for his operation, and when I heard the Mission of Mending Faces I felt so happy for my son, much more when his first operation finished.

MF: Have there been any changes in your son’s attitude, confidence? Does he socialize more now?
Nestlene: Yes, plenty of changes! After the operation, he become more jolly, socialized, and felt so confident!

MF: Has there been anything challenging after the surgery?
Nestlene: Plenty of challenges came after the surgery. When there was a bit of pain in Arnest’s mouth, we went straight to Dr. Hilario. He has become the very best of friends to Arnest, he even called him Uncle Doc. Dr. Hilario is the only doctor that Arnest wants to see, even if he has another sickness, he wishes to see Uncle Doc.

MF: What differences have you noticed in your son since the surgery?
Nestlene: He has become happier and very confident, but as he got older and started to go to school, he become a little bit ashamed to talk because of troubles with his speech.

Nestlene: We are very much thankful to Mending Faces, to the Doctors and all the people who support Mending faces. I still wish and pray that his speech will improve after his 3rd operation. Keep up the good work and god bless your upcoming trip here in the Philippines.

The Mending Faces team is hoping to have Arnest join us in Kalibo in just one week, and help to comfort other young patients who may be nervous and apprehensive about having surgery by sharing his success story. The responses in this interview are hopeful, yet also illuminate the need for continued speech therapy in some of our patients. With two speech therapists joining us from a Norwegian cleft team this year, we feel confident we will be able to help Arnest and his mother address the speech issues that can continue post-op. They also will work with new patients and their parents with take-home speech therapy instructions as needed. It also reminds us that the work continues and with the help of our benefactors, volunteers, and Mending Faces missioners that come from far and wide, our combined efforts are truly making a difference! Thanks to all of you for your support. Be sure to get your friends and family to sign up for the e-blast to follow our trip departing on February 6th, so you can enjoy the inspiring and hopeful photos and stories as they unfold!

A minor miracle, Kalibo 2013 – By Jay LaVigne

Feb25 

Running a medical mission is a lot like working the trapeze or walking the tight rope with only part of a net.   Falling does not always mean disaster but it does involve a few moment of terror as you figure out if the slip means a big bounce or a sudden splat.  With an inventory list that is pages long, dozens of electrical devices that are shipped (really sent via ship and ground carriers which takes 2 months or more) or stored for a year in the humidity of the Philippines, with surgeons, anesthesiologists and other doctor who each have their own demands and preferences,  getting the mission set up and ready to operate is truly a study in chaos and crisis management.  This year was no exception, as we discovered missing oxygen regulators (that control the flow from the tanks to the anesthesia machines) to a bove (electro cautery device) which would not work with our cautery pens, the list of things that need to be fixed or found on set up day seems endless.

It is not that these same crisis do not arise at home, it is that in Roxas City, the easy answers were all 10,000 miles away.  Into this maelstrom stepped our guardian angel Dustin Vlcek, a bio med tech from Good Samaritan hospital north of Denver.   Dustin was a last minute addition primarily tasked to help set up anesthesia machines in Kalibo (more on that below) but he became a critical player in addressing all the equipment issues that arose as things were unpacked and turned on.

The prime example, was the failure of one bove machine to work with the cautery pens.  This devices cauterizes tissue to stop bleeding and is important in facial operations as the profusion to the lips and mouth is extensive.  This year we did an exceptional number of palates as we took the cases that many missions refuse as too complex so a bove for each table was key.

The new bove pens have a switch built in so we have not been shipping foot pedals with the machines.  Having a bove machine down was a huge problem.  In stepped Dustin who determined that the problem could be resolved with a foot pedal.  Of course, we had none of those so we were left scrambling to develop an effective work around.

The answer was surprisingly simple, after a scavenger hunt at the local hardware store (not Home Depot or even a small Ace, but more like the hardware store in Mayberry), we located a door bell and 4 meters of speaker wire, shazam, we had a functional foot pedal.   While the most memorable of the emergency work arounds it was simply one of many and we are all grateful to Dustin for his ingenuity and good humor and keeping it all working.

After days of extinguishing one fire after another,  Dustin’s real mission arose on Wed as we traveled to Kalibo to reassemble 3 full sized anesthesia machines that had been donated almost 2 years ago by the Golden Ridge Surgery Center.   Working anesthesia machines are a precious commodity in the Philippines.  The main hospital in Kalibo that is the only source of care for 100,000 indigent Aklanons and it only has 2 and one does not have a ventilator which means for certain procedures the anesthesiologist has to squeeze and air bag 12 times a minute for hours at a time.  If we could get these devices up and running, not only would the Kalibo hospital have more capacity but outlying district hospitals would also get a machine as well.

The Anesthesia Machine Odyssey on the domestic side was truly a Greek tragedy that involved multiple false starts, 2 fancy crates that we could not use and finally the stomach twisting decision that disassembling them was the only course so they would fit into reasonable sized box for shipment by a local freight forwarder (the heartburn related to the fundamental question, once you take them apart, can you put them back together?)

The cast of characters in the disassembly was large as Dustin and Sami Lababidi helped me rip the covers offer and disassemble the first unit.   Randy Paulsen who helped develop the plates that we used to secure the main cart in a box so it could survive the 10,000 mile trip, Don Bailey who was instrumental in the disassembly of machines 2 & 3 along with Abe from Colorado  Forex who shipped the boxes without incident to Kalibo.

Miracle number one was that the boxes arrived in Kalibo intact and did not cost the Province one peso (which they truly do not have).

The next trick was for us to reassemble the units and verify that they worked.  Dustin was unfazed by the 101 pieces that came out of the boxes (this was one unit) and immediately set to working with the local hospital maintenance to get the boxes together.   The first machine were assembled and through a miracle of good fortune, we turned it on and it worked.  See a picture Doctor Charles (Mending Faces chair) and Dustin smiling broadly at that plan involving years of effort and 10,000 miles of travel actually came together

The hospital maintenance staff is a hearty and hardworking group faced with a barrage of donated equipment, some of which never worked, limited training and zero spare parts so the fact that anything works is a testament to their skills.   With their help the other two machines were assembled.  Of course, we faced our own heart attack moment as the screen for machine number 2 failed to work – but after some problem isolation (for which Dustin deserves a PhD), he figured out that it was a cable issue rather than a screen problem and some further disassembly, we located the offending cable.

As I look at the above paragraph, I realize that I have utterly failed to express to real fear as we looked at a blank screen that we spent 2 years, $1000 and hours of hard labor disassembling, packing, unpacking and reassembling an anesthesia machine that doesn’t work.   This eventuality was why we brought Dustin.  Good thing we did.

After another hour, all the gear was up and working.  The picture is of Dustin and one of the hospital anesthesiologists going over all the features.  She was particular happy with the extra oxygen port for a nasal cannula.  Apparently, they have to move hoses on their current machines.

Anyways, after all the effort, fear and trepidation, wailing and gnashing of teeth, there are now three fully functioning anesthesia machines in the Province.

As a side note, there will soon be 4 functioning anesthesia machine in the province.  After we finished the set up and training, the local maintenance techs asked if we could look an older model machine that was not working.  Dustin again showed a flare for problem isolation, quickly determined that the machine itself was working but when he went to test the vaporizers and realized that they both  were leaking.   He quickly showed the techs how to disassemble the vaporizers and found that a number of the O rings had failed.  All they needed to do was replace the O rings and they should be good to go.

It was a very long day but leaving the province with 3 functioning machines and a 4th on the way, is a huge benefit to the patients of Aklan.  Having started the whole project in May of 2011 with nothing but a hope that these huge devices might be of value, leaving town having made it happen was really a great feeling, one we would not have had without Dustin so all of us and many future patients in Kalibo and elsewhere owe him a debt of gratitude that will be hard to properly express.

All the Mending Faces volunteers provide valuable and unique services.  The mission would be less successful if we lost even one, but in 2013, Dustin proved an extraordinary addition to the mission and we are already recruiting him for 2014.

 

Final Day – by Usha Barry, MD

Feb24

After the previous long days in the operating room, we finished our last day of cases refreshingly early.  With amazing efficiency, all of the machines, equipment, medications and supplies were inventoried and packed away to be stored in Kalibo until next year.  Extra supplies, surgical scrubs, even our OR shoes were donated to the very appreciative local hospital staff.  The ORs and recovery area were once again empty except for a couple of tables.  There was no sign left of what had taken place there for the last week.  It was a relief to have completed the mission, but there was also a tinge of sadness in those bare rooms. Having been out of the hospital very little, I was eager to hear about the experiences of the outreach volunteers who have been in the community at schools, orphanages, and patients’ homes.  My husband, Jeff, was able to accompany a patient home after discharge from the hospital today.  Upon hearing his story and seeing his photographs, I was struck with a sentimentality that had been missing this week.  Out of necessity, the atmosphere in the OR was definitely one of “business as usual” in order to get the operations completed.  But learning about a little girl’s return to her rural home made real the impact of those hours we’ve spent in the hospital.  I am grateful to the outreach volunteers who have made the medical team’s work more comfortable with a steady supply of drinks and snacks, made runs for emergency supplies, delivered care packages to the patients, and in every way have made the mission unique and meaningful through their enthusiastic and empathetic interactions with patients, families and the community.

The day ended with the (vice) Governor’s dinner reception.  After a long week, I was tired and just wanted to sleep, but couldn’t neglect the gracious show of appreciation and hospitality by our sponsors. With food and speeches and singing and dancing, the Filipino’s thanked us for our efforts here.  The experience was a surreal departure from the rest of the week, but as I looked across the room at one of the outreach volunteers, Kathy Snider, tapping her toes to the music, I couldn’t help but sing along myself.  It has been a good week.

Following a Patient from Pre to Post-Op – by Dr. Kay O’Leary

Feb24

Today, I followed one of my favorite patients, Michael, through his surgery. He is 10 and has both a cleft lip, and palate. Both he and his mom are delightful. The ORs are large rooms outfitted with two operating tables and anesthesia units. Upbeat music is playing constantly, keeping time with the beeps from the monitoring equipment.  Everybody is upbeat, excited to be involved with the procedures they know will make such a difference in the lives of these children. When I asked a hospital official about locating patients for next year’s mission via the schools, he told me that the kids with cleft lips were kept at home and did not attend public school. Now these children will be able to go to school, make friends more easily and have a better self image and a chance at a better future. The buzz in the OR is also from the excitement of being able to work with and learn from some of the top professionals in the world. Surgeons assist each other, and they show each other different techniques that they use. Michael’s surgeons were gracious to the entire team, answering questions from observers, inviting us in for closer view of the procedure, and pausing to allow photos to be taken. It took an hour to close Michael’s palate, and another hour to change the set up and repair the lip. With two operating tables going at the same time, there is constant movement with nurses floating in and out to find necessary supplies in an unfamiliar setting. As the surgery progresses from the anesthesia prep, to the surgical prep, to the surgical procedure and the final finish/cleanup, the rhythm in the room moves from quick pace to steady, then back to quick as the patient is bundled up and rushed to the recovery room. In recovery, the patients have the undivided attention of the doctor and nurses, holding them and comforting them with soothing touches, and soft, kind words as they wake from the anesthesia.

The long job of healing is just starting. For patients with a lip repair, there is the discomfort of having stitches in the lip and nose. Once food is in the mouth, chewing will pull against the new sutures, but the adjustment goes pretty quickly. For the patients with palate repair, it is a different story. In order to get enough tissue to bridge across a large opening in the palate, the skin and muscle along the base of the teeth must be released to allow the tissue at the cleft site to be pulled together to be stitched. Special white mesh is then tucked into the area at the base of the teeth to cover the open wound. A few stitches hold it in place and the body will heal that area and cover it with new skin over time. There are stitches in the floor of the nose, the roof of the mouth and along the teeth. Eating is more difficult, so food must be processed until the patient is able to tolerate chewing and the movement of food in the mouth. It is amazing to see how tough and resilient these kids are.

A Nurse’s View of Post Op – by Emily Feedar

Feb24

Today has been fantastic.  I’ve been working alongside Annie Hardwick, Jenny Phillips, and Dr. Altrip in the post-operative ward.  Most of the children are doing quite well and recovering without negative incidence.  At times, I felt like nurse Ratchet faced with feeding a child water through a syringe while he cries and kicks me away; he may have to stay another night in the hospital for more fluids if he continues to refuse to drink.  The parents try to get him to drink to no avail.  I’m sure all parents know how easy it is to get a four year old to do something they don’t want to do!  Many others are taking the water graciously while I swat flies away from their faces.  I have been appreciating the challenge of communication without translators.

A young boy was crying quietly in obvious pain.  Unfortunately, the only medication they have here is equivalent to extra strength Tylenol, and is given every 6 hours.  He had his only two hours prior, so nothing left to do but get him ice, wrapped in an examination glove, to ease his pain.  It took some coaxing, but I hope it eventually helped.  I am honored to be here to help in any way I can.  It humbles me to see the strength of these children and their families huddled around cots in hallways and cramped rooms.

The Pre- and Post- Surgical Ward and Its Unsung Heroine – by Marilyn Toomey

Feb24

As much as Americans might like to think we are idealistically superior to the Brits, having soundly trounced them in the Revolutionary War in order to “pursue our right” to have no king or man tell us what to do, there comes a time, and with respect to certain individuals, we need to realize that some of our best character traits (genetically, culturally, and spiritually) stem from across the Atlantic.  Such a representative individual would be Annie Hardwick who is in charge of the pre- and post- surgical ward for our Mending Faces cleft palate/lip revisions.

Although Nurse Hardwick would say she detested the idea of spawning children, she in fact nurtures, mothers, and places healing hands on our young and beautiful patients every day.  She is responsible for minding the shop that cares for all the children who undergo the surgical correction of their cleft lips and palates (some quite severe and deforming).  It is a feat that requires loving patience and extreme endurance, which I would question my ability to muster.

Annie has worked as a nurse for years, and an impressive, and versatile résumé she has.  Born in Nottinghamshire, U. K., living for a few years in Canada, and then returning to Derbyshire, U.K., she has worked in midwifery, pediatrics, gynecology, and is currently a stroke research nurse for the Lincolnshire Clinical Research Facility in the United Kingdom.  Oh yes, she keeps bees as well.

A typical day on the ward might include 30 children, with 2/3rds being post op.  With these children you have their mothers, sometimes fathers, and their siblings; grandma might be there too.  They lay on small “camping” cots with no more than 3 feet between them, and if the whole family is there, they all sleep on the same cot.  IV’s are strung along the wall on clotheslines.  Very few children cry, but most are extremely well behaved.  This is a pointed reminder of how we Americans have allowed our children to run amuck.  The ward’s overflow patients line the hallway outside along one wall; the other wall is already taken up with women who have given birth or about to give birth making it even more confusing.

The parents are smiling and grateful and remarkably trusting of these perfectly strange and pallid foreigners who are about to perform surgery on their children’s mouths and faces.  Some of the younger children cry hysterically if approached too quickly by one of the white giants (the Philippine people have darker skin tones and are diminutive compared to those of us who are of Northern European extraction), and since many of these children have been victims of malnutrition, they are even smaller than the norm.  As we attempt to guess their ages, we discover that they are years older than what we first assumed.

Yesterday, I saw an unbelievable sight, from an American perspective:  asleep on a cot was the cleft lip and palate patient, his Mom with his 1-month-old brother (also a cleft, but too young for surgery) at her breast, and his older sister.  Count them….that’s 4, all neatly nestled together, soundly asleep, in 85-degree heat (no air conditioning) accompanied by an unsettling decibel level.  The current tropical depression hovering over the Philippines, drumming inches of rain onto the hospital corrugated tin roof, creates a humidity level of 99% indoors…100% outside, of course, and the chaos of all those families in one room is truly an experience not soon forgotten.  And mention must be made of the skulking hospital cats that keep darting in and out of the open doors, windows, and slinking about between beds and nurses feet.  Quite unsettling to have one of those mangy, parasite infested creatures brush against one’s leg, but they are hungry as many are here.

But back to our unsung heroine, Annie Hardwick:  these are the conditions that she faces every day.  On the ward early, long before the rest of us are required to be at the hospital, and staying late, for sometimes several hours after the last surgery.  She wants every child settled in properly before she turns the ward over to the local nurses at night.  Each mother or father must be carefully instructed to “water” his or her child every 30 minutes, gently with a 20 cc syringe.  The children must not eat or drink anything but clear liquids for two weeks, must not chew, must not smile, must not talk excessively to avoid tearing the delicate tissue and sutures of their newly reconstructed palates and lips.  Since language and cultural traditions are barriers, this often requires more than a few, re-translated, reminders and demonstrations.  Annie carefully observes and lays hands on each child to determine his, or her, condition.  In addition, she trains the local nurses, trains the parents, trains the unskilled volunteer such as me, with infinite wit and wisdom in this 85 degree heated, 99% humidified state of bedlam.

And with Annie, comes her abiding sense of wonder of all that exists around her.  Life is a Miracle of God to be respected and honored.  As she efficiently and skillfully cares for each child, you readily catch sight of her compassion and thoughtfulness.  In difficult cases that struggle a bit post operatively, she ponders, she tries different approaches, she asks questions, and she never ever hurries to “just get through it all.”  She exemplifies that the art of nursing is to ensure that the patient’s well-being is foremost.  She truly personifies self-less giving of her life for others.  Then she stands in the courtyard between the ward and the operating rooms, taking a quick break, and she quickly spies 3-inch long, neon green caterpillars with glowing, bluish, alien eyes, or a large snail sporting a 4-inch long shell.  She pauses and sees all the wonders of creation about her and marvels at them.  She is a whole person who in turn can treat a patient as whole person and then step back and still be amazed.

And I must mention, before shutting down my computer, that her witty command of the English language leaves us Americans looking rather dull.   Her patients’ Moms who catch on quickly are “sensible”, and if not, well…  Children who won’t or can’t “settle” are “fractious,”…. I could have applied that term for my own children, frequently.  And I was promptly told yesterday, in regard to my feeling a bit achy, that I no doubt was suffering from “supratentorial overlay.”  Which of course I had to ask and was informed that it was “all in my head;” I was not being “sensible;” it was only the heat.  And finally, per Annie, I should “Foxtrot Oscar” before my readers become senseless with my babbling.  Polite British version of “taking my leave has become imperative.”  Annie is really a humble person, and I hope I shall have thoroughly embarrassed her, because she deserves to be richly praised.  She is truly God’s healing hands.

Everything Under One Roof – by Dave McHale

Feb22

What’s a mall that has the look of an indoor strip mall and the feel of a flea market with a full blown grocery store? I give you Gaisano’s, the Philippine’s largest, well, it’s hard to describe, but I guess it’s a mall operator. Located about a half block walk from the provincial hospital it was perfectly located to fulfill the mission’s many needs.

Part of my mission, ok a pretty big part, has been to hit Gaisano’s for everything people needed to drink, snack on, glue, wipe up, cool down, carry, secure, put on their feet, bandage, and otherwise wear.  And it’s all under one roof! Some of the stores carry the Gaisano label, others do not, so I will never be able to fairly describe it…think of something that looks like a multi-level Wal-Mart on steroids, rolled up with the a mass of economic activity of a public market.

All of us on the mission are asked to contribute in many different ways.  As a corporate exec in “real life”, I always tell my reports “don’t walk, but run to where your skill set can be fully utilized”. That said, I am not sure what it means when I very quickly tumbled to (err, unwittingly relegated to?) the designation of “Gaisano’s Minion”. I feel as a minion I am a strong performer and would put my minion assets up against those of any other minion. And please don’t misunderstand, I am truly happy to help get things the mission team really needs, but rest assured that given the speed with which I fell into this assignment will cause me to reexamine my own skill sets when I return home.

Oh yes, back to Gaisano’s. It’s not a very well designed building in terms of flow. They maximize space by jamming stuff together. But they have to because it’s structured in such a goofy way,  more kiosks than your average US mall, a grocery store on the first floor, with a really curious odor in the meat department that left some who accompanied me to feel a little uneasy. By my tenth trip I was just used to it…A department store, toy store and hardware store along with dozens of others shops and kiosks on the second floor and more on the third floor, including a furniture store.  It has a two screen movie theatre that currently features the most opposing of films; Les Miserable and some karate movie from Jackie Chan that I had never heard of. The epitome of Gaisano’s, expect one thing and sometimes get another.

After my fourteenth, yes I have graced Gaisano’s fourteen times in three days; one of the most striking things is the number of people working in the facility. If there were that many people working in a grocery or a department store in the US, first you would be amazed, but you’d have to shop there quickly because that store would not be open for long.  Workers constantly stocking, then three sometimes four to a check-out counter, armed security and a number of people at customer service…but not talking to customers. I do not want to leave you with the misimpression that all the staff made Gaisano’s a picture of efficiency. The opposite actually, which always made my trip there so full of excitement. They always had me guessing; how many people would I have to ask to find the super glue? Three including the one that said they didn’t even have super glue. How long would it take for one of three stockers in the drink area to get me three cases of water? I don’t have an answer because after waiting 20 minutes I gave up and just took all the individual bottles of water from the refrigeration section…which, not surprisingly, were not at all refrigerated. Getting the picture? A good minion who ply’s his minion trade at Gaisano’s learns to take what he’s given and roll with it.

I end today confident that I will return to Gaisano’s several times tomorrow and, therefore, I again welcome a day full of promise and excitement at the unexpected. Rumor has it that that the kiosk selling little Filipino ice cream cones for eight pesos (about a dime) may be featuring cheese flavored ice cream. I don’t know what kind of cheese flavor (I rather doubt it’s a good Gouda), but I am going to have it because, like everything at Gaisano’s, you never know when you’ll be surprised.

Taking a Patient Home – by Mark Horton

Feb22

We had the opportunity to escort home a very young couple and their baby following the child’s cleft lip surgery. The tremendous poverty of their surroundings was “outshined” by the richness of their smiles, laughter, and appreciation of our mission efforts.  We will be forever moved by tears of joy shed as we departed the warmth of their family and friends.

The living conditions………a dirt floor, no running water, a bucket for a sink, cook stoves in the street – they all faded in the glow of hope and inspiration as we waved good bye and returned to the hospital for another day of surgery!

Tales from the OR – by Amy Kennedy

Feb22

Day number 3 in the OR – we are running like a well oiled machine. There are 4 operating tables running simultaneous each with a team of talented professionals. We also have the help of several Filipino nursing students. They are eager to learn and grateful for the opportunity to scrub in and assist on cases.

In reality, we are working our tails off from 8 until 6 or 7pm daily. As of Wednesday evening we had finished surgery on 38 patients, specifically we had performed 19 palate repairs and 23 cleft lip repairs.  Several dental procedures have also been done; the dental team has worked on 7 patients, pulled about 20 teeth and made one obturator for an older patient with a cleft palate that could not be repaired.

Really our feet are tired, our backs ache, and our ankles have grown larger due to all the hours on our feet and humidity and the “eau de parfum” in the OR is strongly reminiscent of bug spray. But at the end of each day, we are joyous, humbled, inspired and wouldn’t have it any other way!

P.S. – Our Dr. Mimi Wong was surprised to see her name used on a hospital poster that warns patients against Dengue Fever. Best we can tell, MIMI, is the acronym used to explain the sources of the fever – stagnant water, mosquitoes, etc. Mimi tells us that the poster will have a special place in her home in Denver!

Mending Faces Nurses and Outreachers Visit Inzo Arnald Elementary School – by Jessie, Karen, Becky, Missy and Coni

Feb21

We just arrived back at the hospital from Inzo Arnald Elementary School, an urban school set in a bustling neighborhood full of city sounds and commotion. The school was selected for a visit as it was identified as a school in need and close to the hospital. The moment we pulled in, we heard shrieks of excitement coming from the classroom. Apparently our arrival had been a great distraction and the teachers seemed equally pleased to have something new and different to do a part from their everyday lessons. There were more than 400 children waiting to meet us from kindergartners to 6th graders!

We had never been greeted so warmly in our lives. The kids were so excited to see us. We walked into one classroom and we were greeted by the class standing up and in unison saying, “Good morning Ma’am!” We were there to give a presentation on dental hygiene, specifically tooth brushing. The principal translated for us, emphasizing the two by two rule – “twice a day for two minutes”…. just to make sure it was not a “Charlie Brown school teacher” experience. Each child received a toothbrush, toothpaste and a coloring book that illustrated how to properly brush their teeth.  After the demonstration, we were treated like celebrities. The kids swarmed us and asked for our autographs. Now we know what it feels like to be famous!  It was so overwhelming to be treated with such respect from the staff and the kids. They seemed genuinely interested and were eager to learn.

We even had time to do an art project with a small group of kindergartners, with art supplies sent by a Mending Faces supporter. The children were shy and a little tentative at first; however, after we gave them glue, glitter, scissors, and markers the shyness disappeared. Great fun was had by all! Our “kindies” seemed to soak up the opportunity to just have fun, and were quite enthusiastic to get “crafty” with the Outreach Team.  For us, it was a delightful break from the grind of the OR, where we have been spending 10 hours a day on our feet.  We felt so grateful to be able to touch their lives because they definitely touched ours!

The Road to Cuartero – by Dave McHale

Feb21

So, the opportunities to do and experience wonderful things on outreach arise daily. I have witnessed the surgeries where cleft lips are pulled together for the first time, visited schools and an orphanage and have learned much about the wonderfully strong Philippine culture and her unbelievable friendly and endearing people. All unforgettable experiences that I was sure could never be topped. Until today.

One of the things I think we all think about when the many kids come though the mission is what are they lives like when they go home? Where and under what conditions do they live? What are their families like….what do their parents do for a living?  A hundred questions that no one, not even veterans of the missions, have ready answers to, as we always said goodbye at the front doors of the hospital as the patients are discharged home.

I was initially introduced to her on Monday as “Patient 18″. She is an adorable four year old kindergartner and was brought to the Roxas Memorial Provincial Hospital for the repair of a cleft lip. I was asked to take her “before” picture. She was in the pre-op ward with her mother and paternal grandmother. Smiling easily at all the strange people who were suddenly interested in her and all immediately taken by her easy-going nature in such unusual circumstances. What a courageous little girl I thought…then went about the hundred other things that outreach volunteers can do on this trip and never gave her another thought until this morning when I was told that I would have the opportunity to accompany her and her family to her home. Whoa.

Her name is Milden. She lives with her family about an hour’s drive, a bumpy, twisty, sometimes sketchy, drive outside of Roxas in the town of Cuartero. Milden understandably slept most of the way home, but through an interpreter we were able to learn that she lived with her maternal grandparents and a 97 year great grandmother. Her father is a security guard in Manilla who travels home for several weeks only once a year to see his family. Her mother washes clothes when she can. Their combined monthly income is 7200 pesos, give or take, which comes out to $180 a month. No, it’s not a typo!

Their home backs up to a large rice field and is adjacent- in a very random way- to an indoor outdoor basketball court that is inexplicably covered in spots and fully exposed in others.  We had to walk across the basketball court to get to the front gate as it is situated mid court and well off to the side.  Inside the gate to the right was the family outhouse. To the far left is the pump from which the family draws all of it’s water. Yes, there is no indoor plumbing. The home is of bamboo construction with a metal roof.  We were experiencing a tropical depression which in the Philippines means rain and lots of it, so the first thing you noticed when you entered the home was the noise of the rain hitting the tin roof. The second thing you noticed was all the jugs for drinking water, a jug for water used for doing dishes, laundry, bathing, etc., that had to be carried from the courtyard into the home, and the faint smell of smoke from the wood burning stove. There were a total of four lights in the entire home. They were very small bulbs so on a cloudy afternoon the interior of the home was almost dark.

We met Milden’s aunt, her grandparents and her great grandmother. They are very loving people who were so very happy to have “their” little girl back home with them.  After staying a while and learning a little more about the family it was time to go.  One of Milden’s grandmothers referred to the mission medical team as “gifts from god” as she and Milden’s mother thanked us for the thousandth time for allowing Milden to have a life changing procedure. The entire time we were in the home, Milden never left her mother’s arms. We were able to see Milden’s bedroom, replete with mosquito netting and no lighting. But to see how happy she was to see her bed, and how much she wanted to just get in it after her last 36 hours, whatever I or anyone else may conclude about living conditions in a relative sense, she was home, with her family, and that was clearly all that mattered.

I hope others on our mission will have the unbelievable opportunity to visit our patients after discharge. Yet another truly unforgettable, moment courtesy of Mending Faces.

The British Perspective – by Dr. Stuart Binks

Feb21

I have attended 2 Mending Faces missions and each time I am overwhelmed by the poverty of the people and how I feel about being a part of changing children’s lives. The children are small for their age, for obvious reasons, and require less medication than European children but bear the surgery stoically with very few complications.

When I see the children for screening the parents are happy with expectations but even more so when they are cleared for surgery. Anything we do is accepted with thanks from the family who are often, so gratefully, give us small gifts which, of course, we accept graciously.

The operation and the time spent in recovery are tense moments but when all is done and the child returned to the ward and their family there is obvious joy. The overnight care is provided by Philippine nursing staff. I perform a ward round before I leave the hospital and this the families find reassuring. The following morning ward nurses clean them for discharge and there is more joy for the family. Being part of process is a most satisfying thing and justifies all my training and time spent in Medicine.

The team is largely from the Western States of America with a few other nations represented (mainly Britain). We work all day, and at the end of the day we enjoy a quiet meal and a few pints followed by a lot of talk and laughter.  The well known relationship between the “people across the pond” does truly exist. We British are learning the English language again and with a few subtle alterations manage to make ourselves understood. So much so that the Yanks are learning new words such as theatre instead of OR, recovery room not PACU, nappy not diaper and their own history since few of them knew that BOSTON, the original, is in England and a few of its inhabitants helped found the United States of America.

Inside the Operating Room – by Anna Domingo

Feb20

There are many new faces in the OR this year. It is the 1st day of surgery; as always there is a lot of activity and excitement inside the OR. We make sure that our assigned rooms are well stocked and that all the equipment we set up the day before was working properly. This year we are fortunate to have Dustin (a medical equipment technician) along to troubleshoot any issues with our equipment. OR staff assisted him as best we could and felt like a team of McGyvers (remember the TV show).

My OR team today included Dr. Samman, Dr. Sia, Dr. Usha Barry and Mark Horton. At 8 am this morning, I went off with Usha Barry (an anesthesiologist) to pick up our first patient of the day at the ward. The parents were so excited and anxious for their child. As expected- there was a bit of separation anxiety; tears were shed as we departed the ward on our way to the OR. The patient arrivals in the ORs were staggered in each room, to ensure there was enough back up of personnel for the unexpected. Of course there were a few bumps as the day went on; but nothing that could not be quickly resolved. The local Filipino OR staff helped us out with procuring supplies that we didn’t have and they were very eager to assist us in any way. The outreach group made sure that we were hydrated and fed well all throughout the day. We completed surgeries on 13 patients, 6 cleft palate repairs and 9 cleft lip repairs by 7pm on the first day. The surgeons worked together as needed through the day, as there were some complicated and challenging cases. Excellent 1st day!

Through the Eyes of an Orthodontist – by Dr. Kay O’Leary

Feb20

Surgeries started today. We continue to have more people come to the hospital, hoping to get their life changing cleft surgeries. The decision was made to accommodate as many latecomers as possible.  In the hall outside the screening room, where the decision is made if the individual is a good surgical case, people waited four and five deep. Some were from the day before, who were there to be admitted for surgery. Some were there due to the regular flow of patients seeking treatment at the hospital, and some were the thirteen additional patients that hadn’t been screened on Sunday, our designated screening day.

Along the wall waiting was David, who was one of the most disfigured patients we had screened on Sunday.  As a child, he had a bad infection on the right side of his face, known as Noma, that exposed many of the teeth.  The flesh-eating virus had taken most of his lip, and some of the cheek, leaving tight, constricted scar tissue that prevented him from opening his mouth more than about the thickness of 2 dimes. The teeth protruded badly, and were not functional. Being exposed, the teeth gave him the look of a skeleton, without any skin covering. David has lived this way most of his 21 years.

We decided that removing the teeth would allow him to look more normal and brush better. He wouldn’t be able to have surgery for his cleft because he couldn’t open enough to allow a breathing tube to be inserted. After we removed his upper right front tooth, and some on the lower right, he lost the skeleton look. We will see him again on Friday to remove the stitches we placed. I am anxious to see the healing and photograph the change. Most of our cases have clefts before, and are repaired to normal after the surgery. David will not have the pretty look of a repaired cleft due to the large defect. But, having those teeth removed should allow him to feel more normal, and less like people are focusing on his unusual appearance.

We also saw a young man whose cleft lip had been repaired, but the palate remains open to the floor of the nose. He has a small retainer with 2 front teeth on it, which normalizes his smile, but does not keep food from going up into his nose when he eats. It also does not help him make sounds that require pressure such as “B”s and “P”s.  We took an impression with a soft material that gave us the shape of the defect in the roof of his mouth.  From that, an appliance that covers his palate and seals the opening will be made, incorporating the missing two front teeth. He will come back tomorrow to have the obturator placed and fit, so we can make any necessary adjustments.

Long Travel Experience – by Marilyn Toomey

Feb19

Once again, my daughter, Jackie, and I, have trekked from our chilly residence in Colorado to the warm and humid climate of the Island of Panay in the Philippines.  Grateful that Mending Faces allowed us to accompany them one more time on a surgical mission.

After thirty-eight hours of late flights, a missed connection, and one volunteer photographer lost and restored, we finally arrive at the Kalibo Airport on Panay.  Tired we were, but amazed to be dropped into an environment far different from our “sliced white bread,” Evergreen, Colorado experience.  A soft warm breeze stirs the hair and relieves stiff joints.  The landscape is green and lush, with splashes of bright color.  There are no over engineered, linear contrivances of Western cityscapes. The people reflect poverty in all its blinding hues, yet also, it is a community that has learned to live with what grace it has been given.  They are simpatico with their environment, imperfect and beautiful, reaching to survive, not giving up.  We Americans seemed large and bloated with excess in contrast.

One could almost laugh at the cluttered yet unworried chaos of the Kalibo airport.  The plane parks steps away from the terminal, and one does not wait dreadfully long for one’s luggage.  This is good, because between the crowded, hot and confining space of the tiny terminal and the fact that toilet paper is not always readily available in the restrooms, one does wish, briefly, for an American airport until one thinks of the TSA.  Explanatory note:  toilet paper is a limited phenomenon in Asia.  Why would one use toilet paper when one can dip water from a strategically placed bucket and take care of that bit of business?

Outside the terminal, one is greeted, or assaulted, by vendors, selling beer, water, soft drinks, food and other items.  I was overjoyed to be handed a beer and a bottle of water for 75 pesos ($1.85 US). What a phenomenal idea for American airports!  As you are dragging your luggage out the door, someone hands you are beer in mid-stride for a nominal sum of money; perhaps everyone would be happier in America for just that simple reason.  I was.

A sign clearly stated that “We take bomb threats seriously,” the import of which is clearly countermanded by the milieu of stray people wandering freely in and out of the terminal.   In March 2012, Kalibo airport security thought they had a land mine in their X-Ray machine, and the Philippine National Police prematurely announced they had foiled an attempt to bomb the Kalibo airport.  They were hugely disappointed to find that their bomb was a damaged disc brake from a golf cart being shipped away for repairs.  But they did take the threat seriously.

And this airport is also under construction, but then since airports are under construction EVERYWHERE, this should not have been a surprise.  It was difficult to tell from the clutter if this was a planned expansion or if half the roof was torn away in a storm, or perhaps a “not reported” bombing.  It bore no signs of being an organized endeavor.   I was speculating about this matter when I discovered I had left my Kindle aboard the plane.  It took only a minute for me to run to security and be pleasantly surprised that they had already been asking around for the owner of the Kindle.  Amazing.  Yes, there was extensive paperwork involved in order to reclaim it; some things, once again, are the same EVERYWHERE.  However, the conscientiousness, courtesy, and honesty of the Kalibo airport security team were refreshing.

On the Beach – by Connie Casalino

Feb19

What a great place to spend some time outside of the hospital – the beach! After the 1st day at Roxas Memorial Provincial Hospital, we did just that, “we hit the beach”. We were delighted to find warm water and breezes, waves, beautiful shells, smiling kids, and families enjoying themselves. Life unravels in front of us; the kids and families are so friendly and they LOVE to have their photo taken. This makes us feel like we are included in all the activity and fun at the beach instead of feeling like outsiders. Such a refreshing way to end the day and enjoy a place far away from our home and families!

The Speech Therapy Perspective – by Nina Helen Pedersen

Feb19

My first time – and first day on the mission. Where should I start? What should I do?  I felt a little lost in all the activity and preparations even though I had prepared a kind of protocol and brought some equipment from home. I was assigned a corner of the screening room where all the children came with their parents and were screened by surgeons, ENT-doctor, dentist, nurses, photographer and speech therapist. There was a lot of noise and not perfect conditions for speech evaluations. But I listened to them all and made the children repeat sound and explained to parents about cleft and speech.

The children had different speech problems due to the unrepaired clefts.  All had some kind of nasalized speech, with or without audible nasal airflow and week pressure consonants. Others had nasal realizations of fricatives some again had glottal sounds and a few with cleft type characteristics like backing to velar. The most heartbreaking thing was some of the older children with unrepaired palates did not go to school. Their speech was almost unintelligible. All the children I met this first day I will meet again in the ward after surgery on Monday or Tuesday. My priority will be the children that undergo cleft repair. I will work with the parents and demonstrate oral airflow and correct placement of consonants. I have brought games and activities the parents can play with their children.  As there are only 2 speech therapists on the whole island the goal is to help the parents help their children achieve better speech.

Bomba Radio – by Cathy McNamera

Feb18

The beauty of a medical mission is you find yourself in situations that just might not happen at home. In an effort to increase awareness about cleft lips and palates and our organization, Mending Faces, we set up an impromptu radio interview with Radio Bomba. I was the Mending Faces spokesperson. I have never done radio, so the prospect seemed exciting and a bit nervewracking, but the cause is a great one….so I thought “why not”! On mission my motto is…..show up, suit up and do what you need to do to get the job done. 

When we arrived at the station, there was a politician being interviewed. We met her on her way out, a very pretty Filipina wearing a yellow dress with a purple scarf; she told us the colors signify strength for women. I mentioned to her I remembered Corazon Aquino and the yellow dress that she wore. She was pleased that I understood and could relate.

We met with a “very expressive” D.J., the station manager for Radio Bomba. We talked with him on the air about our group, what we thought about seafood (Roxas City is the seafood capital of the Philippines), why we came to Roxas and that we all traveled such a long distance to perform free surgeries.  He was grateful and it struck me that he found it amazing we were doing this all for FREE.

It was gratifying as within 3 minutes of the interview, we received 15 text messages from people inquiring about cleft palate surgeries. At least one of which who will be screened for surgery tomorrow. I felt satisfied as we were able to connect with the community. Great day!

City Streets – by Connie Casalino

Feb18

Street life seems chaotic and full of commotion here in Roxas City. Something we need to get use to as the streets here are noisy and busy, full of whizzing motor bikes (trikes as they are known in the Philippines) and taxis with more people and stuff than can actually fit in the vehicle, but that does not stop them. They all seem to know where they are going, honking and zig-zagging without collisions (so far).  There are few stop lights, signs, or traffic cops. All this commotion is really the norm here in the Philippines; it is so different than streets and traffic in the United States. At home it seems as though everyone lives their lives inside their houses and here life unfolds on the streets in front of us.

We use the trikes to get from the hotel to the hospital and back. The 1st ride in the trike was a little unnerving but after arriving back at the hotel without a scratch, I am looking forward to the next ride. No more than 4 of us can fit in the trikes as we are all much larger than the average Filipino. Filipinos can fit 6 to 8 in the trike with groceries, books and bags. What a site to see!

Familiar Faces – by Monnie Biety

Feb18

I knew I had seen this family before. I just could not figure out where we had met. Finally, when I recognized the Pooh Bear that was in the bed with Arnest Aguirre, I realized that Mending Faces and Dr. David Charles had fixed his cleft lip in Kalibo in 2010. This year, Arnest has returned to have his cleft palate repaired by Dr. Charles with his mother, father, grandmother and, of course, his “Pooh Bear”. He will have his surgery this afternoon.

Screening- Usha Barry, MD

Feb17

Thanks to clear planning as well as the efficiency of the experienced volunteers, our first day of work here was much less chaotic than I imagined.  We met in the morning and got our group assignments for the day.  Some volunteers were to screen (pre-op) the patients for surgery tomorrow, while others would be taking patient “before” pictures and distributing beanie babies to the children, (just one set of the many wonderful items donated for the mission).  I was assigned to the team that would set up the operating rooms (OR).

When I got to the OR and saw box after box of miscellaneous equipment and supplies being brought in and unloaded, I was incredulous that all that stuff could be successfully organized into functional operating rooms in a single day!   Then some of the volunteers who have been working with Mending Faces for years swooped in and really got things moving.  The “newbies” quickly got into the spirit and pitched in wherever necessary.  In a whirlwind, supplies were arranged and labeled, machines were assembled and equipment was set up.  Things that didn’t quite work were jury-rigged; have you ever seen the 1980′s show “MacGyver?”  Well, we had several real-life MacGyvers in action today, and their ingenuity was amazing.  A little duck-tape especially went a long way!  Would we practice like this in this in the U.S., well, no, but the fact that the volunteers are skilled and creative enough to make things work without the resources available back home is inspiring.

I also spent a little bit of time in the screening clinic.  The younger children were definitely frightened of the examination process.  There were also older children who have already had a surgery (in some cases, a cleft lip already repaired, while their palate is yet to be done) who were stoic.  With them all were their families who conveyed a sense of hopefulness.    As a parent myself, I know that the feeling is more than just that.  “Is this one of those chances that will change my child’s life?” I’d probably be wondering.  They are putting their trust in us, total strangers, because they want what we all want, to help make life easier and better for our children.

The patients have been screened, the operating rooms are ready.  Let’s do it.  Let’s change some lives.

Day 1- Mark Horton

Feb17

We got the quick tour of the Roxas Provincial Memorial Hospital this morning and went straight to unpacking our supplies and setting up the opererating rooms, 2 rooms, four tables.  Everyone stepped up and we made a fine team of putting it all together!  No trip like this comes without unexpected issues…To our surprise  (no surprise) we had some of our pre-shipped supplies and equipment infected with little bugs.  We called them rice beetles.  Some of our machines had been packed a couple months ago and shipped out ahead of our arrival, and had been packed with bundles of rice, to absorb the moisture. Apparently the little rice bundles had hatched little rice bugs, from the eggs contained in the rice!  No problem, we disposed of what we had to, and utilized our wonderful equipment repair technical expert, new to our group this year, and he cleaned out the machines!, Onward and upward!  OR’s all set, surgery starting tomorrow at 8 am.  Full steam ahead!

Mark Horton

It’s Time

Feb15

Our volunteer medical team is currently on the plane to the Philippines as I write this. They will land in Manila in about 30 minutes, which will be Saturday morning for them, and from there they will grab a flight to Kalibo then take a hired bus to Roxas City. It has taken us almost an entire year to get to this moment and we could not have done it without our donors and volunteers as well as the dedication of our Board of Directors. It is a privilege everyday to work with such compassionate people.

Why does it take a year to plan our medical mission? Well, it all starts with identifying a city and determining if there is a need as well as if there is a community that will support our mission. In order for us to be successful we need to have the local government and a hospital partnering with us. We utilize the local Rotary Club as our main way to connect with these important organizations. The Rotary Club is a key component to our mission and we are grateful for their support year from year. Once we have those all confirmed then it is time to start putting the team together.

We start recruiting volunteers about 8-10 months out. Our team is made up of medical professionals and non-medical professionals. We work so far in advance for two reasons. The first reason is that this is a big commitment for a volunteer and we want to give them enough time to adequately plan on taking time off and/or raise the necessary funds to participate. All of our volunteers cover the cost of their flight and lodging. The second reason is that it takes almost 6 months to get our medical volunteers licensed to practice in the Philippines. We work directly with the Philippines Medical Association in making sure that all of our medical volunteers are properly licensed.

Once we have decided on the team we start booking flights, making arrangements for lodging, meals and transportation. We also begin ordering the necessary supplies, updating equipment as needed and preparing the team for the experience they are about to embark on. Throughout all of this we are spreading our message, engaging individual donors, meeting with corporations, planning events and writing grants in order to raise the necessary funds to make this possible. Of course I am giving you the short version of what our year looks like leading up to the day the team flies out but we hope you get the idea.

Over the next week we will share stories and pictures directly from the team. This is where the magic happens; this is what makes all the work we did this last year worth it. We hope our stories inspire you. Some of you might have a hard time seeing the faces of the children before their surgery, others might tear up at the impact we make and many of you will feel a sense of pride and joy that you are a part of this. We truly thank you for supporting us on this journey and thank you for making a real difference in the lives of so many innocent children.

Warm Regards,

Kerri-Ann Appleton
Executive Director

5 Days Until We Depart

Feb10

The official countdown for departure has begun.  In 5 days, I know my life will be transformed and I will be humbled by the children and parents we meet who’s lives have been challenged by cleft lip and cleft palate.  I get butterflies in my stomach anticipating the range of emotions I know I will experience confronting this journey half way around the world to the little island of Panay.  I have shared with my friends how rewarding and inspiring the experiences were on the trip last year, and though I don’t want to fill my head with expectations, I do know a few things are certain.  The humidity will hit me like a freight train, we will arrive severely jet lagged, we will be stared at, and if we keep an open mind then anything and everything is possible!  Roxas City, Philippines, here we come!

Cathy McNamara

A few more missioner notes

Mar17

Fans

Three missioners have submitted their stories and experiences.  The mission was so very special that it is hard to really communicate the emotions that we felt during this spectacular week but we are going to keep trying (I grouped the pictures for each other).  Jay

Friends of Mending Faces:

One of my favorite parts of the mission trip was playing with the children. The Filipino children are amazing, brave, intelligent, and a lot of fun to work with. One of the little girls that we worked with especially caught my attention. I cannot remember her name but she was number 72.

This little girl would sit in a bed next to a window and keep opening and closing it as soon as someone looked at her. She had such a big smile on her face anytime one of us would make faces at her through the window. When it was time for her procedure she was so brave. She stayed perfectly calm and playful while she waited for one of the surgical staff members to come and get her. When the time came she marched herself right back into the OR without a second though and never looked back. After her palate repair she was one of the few children that still wanted to get up and look around. I was so impressed with how strong she was. I know that I won’t forget her anytime soon.

Jackie Toomey

(Notes from new Missioners but long term supporters of  Mending Faces – Steve and Cindy Lowe)

Day 1 – Screening

Cindy and I had only imagined what Mending Faces did in the field from the stories and pictures of its volunteers. We finally made the leap and committed to our first mission this year. What the stories and pictures don’t tell are the amazing doctors, nurses, assistants and volunteers that devote their skills and compassion to changing the lives of these wonderful children.

Lining the humid hallways were over a hundred families and children awaiting the screening process. I had to walk outside, wipe the tears and take a deep breath. The stories and pictures don’t prepare you for what the Mending Faces team takes on in one week, in conditions that are to say the least, a bit challenging. When I walked back into the screening room the mix of hope on the parent’s faces, uncertainty in the children’s eyes and compassion in the voices of the volunteers calmed my own selfishness as I contemplated the week ahead.

The volunteers who do this year after year are a colorful combination of characters from the Philippines, South Africa, Great Brittan, Hong Kong and the United States. This experience is impossible to express in stories and pictures.

We are truly blessed to be part of this incredible Mending Faces medical mission. Due to the efforts of many unselfish and compassionate people, the Philippine children and families will be left with, well, mended smiley faces.

Thanks Sami and Carrie for pushing our comfort zone.

Day 2 – First day of surgery

As first time “outreach” volunteers, Cindy and I were waiting for our assignments and quickly discovered you need to operate in an environment with little direction. Actually this is a good thing as the aggressive schedule, the adhoc needs of the day and the unknown requirements of doctors, nurses and patients would be impossible to schedule.

You need to get to know the families and children; this will guide your assignments. They are organized into hot, crowded wards by their day of surgery.  Most will have to spend days waiting in the hospital, multiple families on each bed in the hot, humid conditions. From the rambunctious twins Kelvin and Kevin who ran up and down the halls nonstop, to Alexandra who needed her photograph taken every time we saw her, to the 16th year old John who never moved from his corner on a bed in the ward, they all appreciated the attention. While we could never get John to smile, after giving him the “thumbs-up” up sign countless times, he finally reciprocated with a “peace sign”. Cindy manned the SpongeBob Band Aids and Bennie Babies to keep the kids focus off the wait. I went to work with scissors and cardboard to create a dozen makeshift manual fans. Back into the ward, within minutes there gone and I am back making more. When I returned, Cindy had a crowd of children surrounding her with Band Aids up one arm and down the other. This is the work of Outreach.

You need to get to know the Mending Faces team; this will guide your assignments. A lesson in patient management from first timer Sam (the aspiring liberal arts student) who’s dedication to making the children’s experience as comfortable as possible was the example to follow. If we ever needed to know where a child was, just ask Sam. A lesson in hard work could be learned from everyone, but Amy is an animal. While the Doctors are all amazing, a lesson in life could be learned from Wolfgang and his lovely wife Daisy. Between them I think they have several thousand years of experience. Then there’s Jay “the Answer Man”, I think he is part Doctor, Lawyer, Atmosphere Coordinator, and Pharmacist. How can we make this team more productive? Oreos, Coke Lite, Nescafe, Chips Ahoy, and Cheetos.

Rookies are generally treated like rookies, but not with this group. Between comforting the patients, making designer cardboard fans, trips to get supplies (I have never bought 200 tubes of tooth paste before), making outreach kits,  handing out beanie babies, documenting the trip through pictures and getting acquainted with the team we can’t imagine how exhausted the operating room team is.

Day 3 – More Surgery

Today Cindy and I had the privilege of spending the entire day in the Operating Room. What an incredible experience.

Some of the children came into the room willingly with apprehension in their eyes, some came in crying at a high wail and then there were the one with legs and arms swinging every known direction to mankind. I never believed it would take 4 grown adults to hold down a 4 year old so Sami could send them off for a nice little nap.

By all accounts cleft lips are nothing short of a terrible disfigurement that will eventually affect the children unless corrected.  I say eventually, in that the young children don’t have a care in the world as they run around the ward, interact and engage you with a smile. The older children understand and they hold their heads down as if they have done something wrong.  Then the anesthesiologists, nurses, surgical assistants and doctors perform this incredible magic and transform their faces so they can lift their heads high again. Wow. The transformation is nothing short of a miracle.

During our operating room experience we assisted and observed, asked questions and learned, but most importantly felt welcomed by all the operating room team mates who I can only image have to exercise patience with the Outreach newcomers.

 Steve and Cindy Lowe – Outreach

Not only was Steve able to locate hundreds of tubes of toothpaste in San Jose, he donated them as well.  Then dental mission was a blast – thanks to all who made this new activity possible.

Report on Mending Faces Mission to San Jose in Philippines 2012

Daisy and Wolfgang Losken

The 2012 Mending Faces Mission to Philippines was a great success in the impact it had on so many children and adults with cleft lip and palate.  The atmosphere during the week long mission was relaxed and friendly and exceptionally efficient.  The 50 volunteers had a wonderful time and it seemed that every one of them was glad that they had participated and enjoyed every minute of it.  From this experience their lives have been changed forever.

When we walked into the Hospital on Sunday morning we saw a sea of patients with so many cleft lips, that it raised the excitement level.  All the children were smiling and looking at us lovingly and expectantly.  What surprised me the most was the number of severe bilateral cleft lips among the group.  These are a very difficult form of cleft lip and I loved doing these repairs.  Their parents also looked at us hopefully and expectantly and what showed most was their appreciating that we had come a long way to operate on their children free of charge.  So many of them were older and obviously did not have the finances to have the operation at the usual time.  We usually operate on cleft lips at 3 months and there was a teenager and older boys and mother of 40.  This was their time to be healed and cured.

It was decided that all the surgeons would see the patients together and on mental arithmetic it meant that we had 4 minutes per patient on average.  We soon split into two groups to see the cleft patients.  We saw cleft after cleft and documented them for an operation.  Daisy came to tell me that there were twin boys with bilateral cleft lips.  I am a twin and I know that people always compare twins and only once in my life have I operated on twins.  In that case, one twin had a cleft lip and the second did not.  It was a joy to watch them grow up and see how it affected them.  What stands out in my mind was that 5 years later the parents shared that the child with the cleft lip had become the dominant child.  In the Philippines we saw the twins and Kelvin was a severe bilateral cleft lip with a very prominent premaxilla and was obviously going to be a challenge.  The second twin Kevin was milder.  What struck me was that these two children were very close and loved to be photographed and wanted to see themselves on the camera.   They were a joy to watch.  I requested that I would like to operate on them.  I thought it would be better if the same surgeon operated on both children so that the results would more likely be similar.  This defined the mission for me.  It was the mission of the Twins.

We managed to complete seeing all the children and we handed the lists to Amy to schedule.  I did not envy her.  The next I heard was that she had booked 5 cleft operations for each surgeon per day.  The most I had ever managed on a day was 4 clefts.  We were going to have a challenge.  Usually the first day is chaos in sorting out all the equipment and getting the children in to operate on them.   We had two operating rooms with two tables in each room.  To my surprise we all finished by 7pm on the first day and most days after that.  It was a wonderful and superbly organized mission.

Each day I would visit the ward first thing in the morning to try to take photos of the children that were to be operated on by me.  Our patients were in three rooms, with the beds very close together and some cots with three children in a bed.  The beds were old and rusty and there were no mattresses.  The bed was covered with cardboard or wood on which the children lay.  There were a group of 4 nurses and two doctors who had come from England and they had collected money to purchase needs that they observed in the hospital.  They had $5,000.  They went out and purchased mattresses and beds and fans and 5 wheelchairs and a fridge.  Fortunately the operating rooms were air conditioned but the wards were not and it was very hot in the wards.  The fans were a Godsend.   Some of the donations had come from Rotary and some from private donors.  What an impact those donations were having on the Hospital in Philippines and countless future patients.

On the Monday some of the easier clefts were booked and I had a great mix of unilateral, bilateral cleft lips and a cleft palate.  On the Tuesday the twins were scheduled and at 8am Kelvin, the wider bilateral cleft lip twin was ready for surgery.   The challenge was to repair the lip muscle over the prominent premaxilla and this proved to be difficult.  The nose correction was even more challenging and in the end it came together well with a good tip to the nose and a good airway.

We made a mistake of booking the second twin Kevin later in the day and he did not like waiting and was upset to see his twin brother return after the operation and he was hungry.  We then scheduled him earlier.  After the operation Kevin was not a happy little boy and did not want Liz and Sue to clean his lip or allow us to take photographs.   We did manage.  We are looking forward to getting post operative photos in many months when the lips have healed.

Since I took 3 hours to do each of the twins, some of the other surgeons took over some of the operations that were scheduled for me, with the theory that we will strive to get perfect results in each child, even if it took us longer to do.  It was such fun seeing what the other surgeons were doing and having healthy cross pollination and discussions on the operations and conferring on difficult problems.

We rotated round the tables and so had different anesthesiologists each day.  They were all excellent.  Bonnie helped me superbly and I requested to have her stay with me for the entire week and it was a joy to work together.  Of course that was no reflection on the other scrub nurses who stayed with their surgeons and developed their own team.

The cleft palates were another challenge.  As many of the patients with cleft palates were older, they were very wide and I was worried that they would not close.  Two of the clefts were 25mm wide at the posterior border of the hard palate and one was 20mm – that is very wide.  Fortunately they all closed and looked great the next day.

One aspect of note was the noise in the operating room.  There was a constant din of people talking and in high spirits and one thing was obvious was that everybody was having a wonderful time.   It would have been a pity to reduce this specialness of the mission.  It was obvious that everybody was having the time of their lives and enjoying being part of the mission to help poor children in a country so far from home.  There were many volunteers and for some of them this was the first opportunity to be in an operating room and watch the surgery.  They would see the surgeon mark the plan of action and dissect the lip and the nose and then put it all together – and what a transformation.  There is a beautiful normal lip and nose.  Each time it is like magic.   We loved having volunteers watch and the joy of them seeing the transformation emphasized to us what a pleasure and an honor it was for us to be able to repair cleft lips and palates.

The volunteers were kept busy.  They had 2,000 toothbrushes donated and Steve and Cindy Lowe purchased toothpaste and combined them in a package with a neat bow and gave them to the children in the hospital and in the orphanages.  They were taught how to brush their teeth and encouraged to do it twice a day.  They also visited a home for At Risk Children, Let us Care Foundation, run by Erna Vinkers.  She is a Rotarian and was a great help.  Rotary of Antique was wonderful in planning the mission and getting the equipment to the hospital and looking after us during the mission.  They organized a great dinner.  The Governor also had a dinner for us.

Each child received a laminated sheet of the pre and post operative photo of themselves.  It was a very special souvenir.  The patients and the parents loved it.  Many were overwhelmed.  Many had never seen photos before and the joy and gratitude were palpable.

In the week we operated on 80 patients.  This mission had a great impact on all these patients.  Their parents were so appreciative.   It seemed that every member of the volunteers of Mending Faces had a wonderful time and were glad that they had joined the mission and visited Philippines to give of their time free of charge to help the poor children.  Jay and Donna Lavigne were wonderful in the way they organized the mission flawlessly.  For me it was a special pleasure since it was my 20th mission and a joy to work with my school friend David Charles.  We were at school together since the age of 10 and at university together and he taught me how to ski.  David Charles and Mimi Wong were the co-founders of Mending Faces.   It was also a special pleasure to meet a co South African, Tony Soboil.  He is the son of a lady who had her hair done by my father and then my brother in Cape Town for 50 years and I remember shampooing her hair when I was a little boy helping my father in the hairdressing salon.

Daisy and Wolfgang Losken

81 – The final count

Mar1

With the Governor, Congressman and our own birthday boy David Charles who turns 70 on Sunday.

Morning of the last day!   Missed blogging yesterday, the work and dinner load got to be too much.  In addition to being at the hospital at 7 and getting out around 6:30, we also had dinner on Wednesday with our host organization, the Rotary Club of Antique (they can get away with using that name since they are the only Rotary in the whole province).   Last night (Thursday) was the Governor’s reception.  So we get back to the hotel at 10 or 11.  No chance to blog from the hospital, a little busy.

It is 5am here right now, I slept in (so comments about typos and wordos are not needed – I know).  Many of us this week have been waking up at 4am which has made it possible to get anything posted at all. Of course, that is 1 in the afternoon in Denver so our bodies are still adjusting.  We are not really suffering jet lag which will really hit us when we go home.  Now we are a little sleep deprived, jet lag is the sudden and irresistible urge to sleep at noon.

But I wander, today we only have 5 surgeries scheduled which will bring us to 81 patients, 83 procedures.  An amazing total that has required us to move with purpose all day, every day (no hurrying, just deliberate speed).  The patient needs to be prepped on the ward for surgery, an IV may need to be started, the surgery takes between one and three hours.  With four tables working, the flow of people in and out of the O.R. is pretty constant.

The hospital has been really supportive as well as tolerant of our presence.  We are pretty much living in the Doctor’s lounge.  They have other space and a lunch room available but it is all too far away.  We schedule 15 minutes between cases and the table turnover is probably less than that so we try not to let the medical professionals stray too far away from the theater.

(San Jose has only 2 operating rooms but each room has 2 tables – it worked well for us)

Once out of O.R.  they spend some time in PACU (post anesthesia recovery unit) while the anesthesia wears off and  to ensure that they have tolerated the surgery well.

Mending Faces is lucky to have so many special volunteers but we are particularly thankful for the “Brits” who staff the ward and PACU.  There older nurses and a doctor have so much experience that these tasks are done flawlessly.  Thanks to Annie, Liz, Jean and Stuart for doing their jobs so well.  They hail from around Boston, England and have been coming to the Philippines with medical missions for many years.  We are also happy to Sue and Rob also from the UK working as a team providing anesthesia during surgery.

Our youth outreach had blast connecting with the kids: The end of the beanie baby craze has given us a huge resource of toys for the patients.

This year we had adequate staff to initiate a dental outreach component where we distribute toothbrushes and fun dental brochures to schools in the area.  Aside from the needed dental awareness, it give many of the missioners a chance to see the community up close.  All of us give so much to make the mission work but it is worth noting that outreach volunteers Steve and Cindy Lowe have been on a mission to not only provide toothbrushes for the kids but toothpaste as well.  They have been able to locate and purchase hundreds of tubes of toothpaste so when the kids go home from school they have a full kit.

It is hard to describe the excitement that the visit by these Kanos (Americans) generate in the schools.  Also defying words is the gusto with which Mark Horton performs the tooth brushing demonstration (there may be a video on the web site)

Mark should get a job as a spokesman for the American Dental Association. One more half day and time for a break on the beach. We earned this one.

Perspective of a new missioner

Feb28

This is my first year volunteering for Mending Faces, and I’m sorry it took me so long to make this connection.  I am a vintage retired RN and it’s been many many years since I have been involved in direct patient care, but this mission had great appeal. And now that I am here, I am delighted with my decision.

Jean Coates  - many years experience running the PACU

After a day getting ready and two days working in the PACU/Recovery Room and having the opportunity to observe in the operating room, I am astonished at the heart, energy and expertise our volunteers have brought to this community.  The surgical procedures are incredible – they aren’t just decent surgeries to improve a very difficult situation.  They are much more – the surgeons offer such depth of expertise and have a desire to make each procedure as good as it can be!

And how can you not be taken in by the looks of these beautiful children and their concerned parents.  Even the lack of a common language cannot hide the looks of concern, fear, and appreciation.  This have been an experience of a lifetime.

Carol Ansley

Alameda, CA

The Youth Outreach Perspective

Feb27

My name is Jackie Toomey and I am a part of “outreach” for the 2012 Mending Faces mission trip to San Jose, Antique in the Philippines. Today was the second and first full day of the mission trip. I spent most of my day helping screen different patients for the group. It was a wonderful experience to see all of these amazing and beautiful children that are in need of this life changing operation. Almost all of the people I saw through administration did not speak much English but they were both happy to be there and concerned for their child or grandchild. I was really amazed by the number of people that came to see the group today. As I understand it, last year’s mission did not have as many patients as they would have liked so this year was really exciting because there were over 100 patients that showed up; including two sets of twins! At the end of the day it was very rewarding to hear that that we were able to sign up around 90 patients for surgery.

One part of my day that was particularly memorable for me was this 2-year-old boy by the name of Quin. Quin had a bilateral cleft lip repair a while back but still had a large cleft in his palate. Before this case I did not know that most children only receive the lip repair or the cleft repair. This is both because of the recovery time and also how time consuming it is to perform those procedures in tandem. This goes to show just how precious our time is here. The next few days are going to be packed but it is wonderful to know that we are making a difference in each life we touch.

An ocean of concerned yet hopeful patients and their families.  San Jose does not get many missions (probably mentioned that). For these surgical candidates and their families, there is a sense that it may well and truly be: now or never.

It has been emotionally a little more difficult than last year in Kalibo.  Kalibo, for a variety of reasons, has many more missions like Mending Faces’ and, therefore, when we go there, the patient pool is typically much younger.   We  know for the toddlers that we get to before the age of 5, their deformities will be something they remember through stories their parents tell them rather than having lived with the ridicule of being different.

It is heartbreaking to see otherwise beautiful young ladies suffering through the shame and degradation that is typically heaped upon those with deformities as obvious as a cleft lip.  Above is Jenny, age 13 – an age when kids want to blossom socially, Jenny most likely avoids crowds and meeting new people who might tease her, preferring to live a more reclusive lifestyle limited to family.

While families that have more than one child with a cleft are not that uncommon, we had a mother and daughter appear at the screening.

The causes of facial clefts are not well understood – it is not strictly genetic although genetics play a roll.  The similarity in the clefts between Gina and Gine are a bit startling. (We will get the after pictures posted soon).

Mending Faces does devote time and effort to trying to make the kids feel special and wanted.  This is a very stressful time for everyone and helping the kids relax with coloring books, crayons and more makes the process easier of everyone.  Like the industrious and thrifty Filipinos, we seek to achieve the maximum value from all that we use. 

After being used as an exam glove, the glove will spend the rest of its existence as a funky looking balloon that all the kids love.

Screening is an important process.  Not only do we have to verify that we are able to help the patient, we also go to great lengths to ensure that the procedure can be done safely.

The surgeons use a team approach as they review cases.  Sharing experience that may be relevant to a particular case helps ensure the best outcomes.  Also, scheduling complexities make it impossible to have the same surgeon who did the screening review, do the surgery so the doctors use this time to get a feel for how each of them approaches these kinds of cases.

All the disciplines for ensuring great results work at screening.  There is a general health screening and review of records and a chest X-ray to ensure no respiratory issues and good health sufficient to tolerate general anesthesia (people cleft palate suffer frequent infections because their airways are open to infiltration by food).  We also have a dentist as well as anesthesiologists as part of the process.

Screening is always a challenge but it went extremely well.  We saw 81 patients and only had 2 that issues which excluded them from surgery – Dr. Ric and everyone at the local hospital did a fantastic job pre-screening the candidates and helping out during the 4.5 hours it took to see all the patients:

After traveling 37 hours, waking up a 4am local time because that is 1pm in Denver, rushing to get everything set up and running the screening – we felt a lot like the dog below, pretty much anywhere would be a great place for a nap.

Screening is also a great chance to connect with the kids, because the deformities can make us forget that, behind the deformity, is person ready to laugh and enjoy life as much as anyone else.

Giving this child something to smile about for the rest of his life seems to make all the work worth it.

Jay

A San Jose Kind of Day

Feb26

Today was our first day at the hospital, spent busy preparing for the coming week. “Busy” seems like it might be a theme for our mission; we scheduled surgeries for about 81 patients. It was a full day which started at 10 AM unpacking boxes and setting up the operating room. We ended around 5 PM with the last of the patients making their way through our screening process. Our whole team is looking forward, firstly, to a good night’s sleep.

The children are beautiful and enthusiastic. Meeting them and their parents confirms for all involved that we’re doing good and necessary work. It’s well worth all the scheduling headaches and the heat. Indeed, the air feels more like hot oatmeal than actual air, but it more adds to the sense of effort than actually bothers

The staff at the hospital has been welcoming and friendly. They will be a joy to work with and will, no doubt, make our jobs quite easy.

Our two operating rooms are set with two beds apiece. With the great and numerous staff, we ought to be able to have quick turnover and easy procedures. We start at 8 AM tomorrow. It will be a long but ultimately gratifying week. We know it will zoom by.

The Long March: 36 Hours to San Jose

Feb23

Day One – Live from LAX

With this much baggage, getting to the airport early is key.  After a frantic morning, picking up the last minute things like laminating bags and additional toner, we pressed ganged Shawna to help us carry all 8 5- pound bags to the airport.  We were happily there by noon for the 3:11 flight.

The airlines keep changing the rules to our detriment.  Originally it was 2 70lb bags free (5 years ago), then it was 2 50lb bags and now we have to pay $70 for our second bag.  A really sweet lady at United only charged us $35 per bag  and put up with checking our bags all the way though to Kalibo. Not having to mess with 1000 pounds of gear in LA and in Manila is huge.  PAL may be a couple dollars more but it has lots of perks like not loading and unloading all the gear as we switch airports.

The group gets a little R&R before the boarding the plane.

Thanks to all missioners who devoted their second bag and parts of their personal bags to carrying all the mission supplies.

I take great pride in the fact that most of the bags were exactly 50lbs – some were 50.5 and the nice United Airlines lady ignored the 51.5 bag.  Note the bullseye above.

We have all made it to LA without incident.  We also had a bit of good weather fortune. Rather than leave at 9pm and stop for fuel in Guam, we are flying straight through and leaving at 11pm.  2 less hours in an old airline seat if huge.

Time for the international security screening  – some tough love.

Be back in touch after the 14 hour plane ride.  A true iron butt classic.

Jay

San Jose de Buenvista, Antique – Mission 2012

Feb21

San Jose de Buenavista, Antique – where the heck is that?

San Jose may not be the end of the earth but you can see it from there.

There are many factors that are considered when Mending Faces decides where to send its mission.  While need is an important factor, we also have to consider logistics, local commitment to the project, support in securing the necessary medical licenses as well as the hospital’s ability support 4 operating room tables.  San Jose is almost a perfect location, very remote, with few medical missions and, therefore, a significant need but not too far from our inventory base of operation in Kalibo.

Antique (pronounced ahn-tee-keh) is a small province that was, until recently, very isolated by geography.  The eastern border is mountainous and includes the highest peak on Panay (Mt Madiaas at 2117 meters high).  Antique has its own very distinct language, Kinaray-A (kin-a-rye-a).  While the island of Panay has a variety of dialects and even a few different languages, Kinaray-A is unrelated to any of them.   When I lived in Kalibo back in the early 1980s. I once traveled to San Jose, it was 8 hard hours, over very bad road and, while beautiful, my biggest concern was the 8 hour return trip.   The distance and rough travel made it a place that few ever visited.

This isolation had made San Jose a distinctive place, with a culture all its own.  The absence of a tourist culture is a treat for all of us.  They take great pride in entertaining us in their own language as well as the local talent.

San Jose is a very small city with limited room options.  Mending Faces has booked all rooms in the main hotel in town.    Most of the sidewalks are rolled up by 8pm but the quiet is nice after a busy day.

There is so much more to say but we have to put the finishing touches on our packing and tie up the loose ends before we depart.  Be back in touch soon.

Mending Faces Mission 2012: Step 1 – Packing

Feb19

Friends and Supporters of Mending Faces:

We are putting the finishing touches on supply box #23 and #24, when combined with the 15 boxes and 3 anesthesia machines already stored in the Philippines (and most boxes weigh 50lbs) we are taking a ton of material to make next week’s mission successful.

The host hospitals are very supportive but they rarely have 4 surgeries occurring at the same time.  Even if they have sufficient equipment, it is a bit hazardous for us to assume that it will all be working when we get there.  Filipino maintenance techs are some of the most resourceful people we have ever met, but some things even these hard working McIver’s  can’t fix.

Mending Faces brings its own anesthesia equipment, CO2 rated monitors, suction machines and Bove devices (electro-cautery).  This way we know that we have all the tools needed for surgery and excellent outcomes.   By far the biggest component of donations to Mending Faces each year is the expertise and time of our volunteers, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.    Ensuring surgeons can work effectively and not experience any equipment issues is a priority for all of us at Mending Faces.

Mending Faces own Vice Chair, Dr. Mimi Wong and Anesthesia Committee Co-Chair, Dr. Barbara Allen donated anesthesia machines last year, this year we received 4 monitors and 3 Boves.  We also purchased 4 suction machines because we were not comfortable with borrowing the equipment.   If you have blocked airway, reliable suction becomes instantly critical and it is important that we be ready.   Anyways, we can now equip and run four tables simultaneously for the whole week.

Note the green box covers:  Years ago we discovered how difficult it was to properly tape and tie up a box to survive the flight to the Philippines so with the help of our good Filipina friend Virgit, we developed canvas box jackets that have survived dozens of missions.  Note our most important stateside instrument, the scale.  Making sure every box is exactly 50 lbs can be a trick but important.

Enough rambling for one day, but more to come before Thursday (2/23 – when we leave) about where we are going.

Regards and thanks for all the support:

Jay L.

Inaugural Mission Success Beyond Expectations!

Feb16

Most of the volunteers on Mission 2011 Kalibo have worked together on at least a half dozen missions in the past. Because of this cohesive team, the mission after 3 full days of surgery has completed 48 procedures! Many of the patients are young needing both cleft lip and palate repair. The children are so fortunate to be able to have both procedures performed during one surgery as this means less cleft surgeries in their future. This is easier both on the patients and parents! Having the cleft palates repaired at a younger age, gives the kids a better chance at having more normal speech and allowing them to have a normal life.

Mission members have been graciously hosted at 2 events by the Provincial Governor and the Kalibo Rotary Club. The Rotarians treated us to Valentine’s Day dinner and some enthusiastic Karaoke singing. A good time was had by all. The Governor hosted a lovely dinner at a local restaurant and presented the Mending Faces board members with Plaques of Appreciation. The Governor’s assistant expressed immense satisfaction with the mission, was happy to see so many familiar faces return for Mission 2011 and encouraged us not to stay away for long and return to Kalibo in 2012.

A big thank you to the entire Governor and his staff, the hospital staff and the Rotarians. The Mission and its successes would not have been possible without their efforts, hospitality and coordination. THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

After the surgeries are finished, the Mending Faces chairman and another volunteer will make an emissary visit to finalize the location for Mission 2012.

Mission Central – The Operating Rooms

Feb16

The heartbeat of the Mission is located in the 2 operating rooms. Staffed by a team of health care professionals that includes surgeons, anesthesiologists, surgery techs, P.A.s and nurses the rooms have a certain vibe and a whole lot of rhythm. Upon entering the OR, the energy, focus and concentration is immediately apparent. For many of us that do not find ourselves in the OR daily, it is at first intimidating. But soon you are in awe of the surgical process and the talent of each professional. It then becomes a place you want to visit again during the mission, not only to observe but to be a part of the camaraderie and tap your toe to the surgeon’s tunes whether it is soothing classical or big bass and heavy metal.

The surgeries last anywhere from 1 ½ to 3 hours depending on the procedure performed. The surgeons and anesthesiologists certainly have key roles in the OR but a successful surgery would not be possible without the full cast of characters all with the same goal – to improve the life of those less fortunate, one smile at a time!

Anna Domingo Returns Home

Feb15

Anna Domingo is new to Mending Faces, but not to the Philippines. She was born and raised in Bacolod City located in the province of Bacolod. She attended nursing school here and left the Philippines when she was 18 years old. This is the 1st time she has returned home since 1999. She now lives in Colorado and has worked in pre and post-op and the emergency room for over 19 years. Returning here has reminded her that she really still enjoys the simple things in life and how much she misses the Mango fruit! Thanks to Mending Faces chairman, Dr. David Charles for inviting Anna to be a part of Mission 2011.

Sisters Reunite for Mending Faces Mission

Feb15

Jenny Phillips and Amy Metzger, sisters and health care professionals, made the long trip from Florida and Colorado to spend time together and give their time to the less fortunate. Both come to the Mission with years of experience. Amy, who has been on 4 missions – 2 of those in the Philippines, is a Surgical Assistant and has worked in the field for 30 years. She works in Colorado with one of the surgeons on Mission 2011. Jenny, currently living in Florida, worked as a nurse for 35 years in Public Health. She has recently retired. This is her 1st mission; she has always wanted to do a mission and thankfully, Amy talked her into joining Mission 2011. Jenny loves to work with the kids, their families, and the Mending Faces team members. She has really been surprised at how well the kids do after surgery.

Currently, the only thing she really misses after a week away is “a good glass of chardonnay”!

Jean Coates Returns for her 4th Mission

Feb15

Jean hails from Boston (the original one), England along with 2 other mission volunteers. She has an extraordinary amount of experience as a nurse. She is a Sister (Senior Nurse) in Pain Management and has worked in the Recovery Room for 15 years. She makes it all look so easy and provides the comfort the patients need. She returns to the Philippines as she loves to help people who are so grateful for the care she provides.

Jean is a “real plus” on a mission. She brings with her a warm smile, a huge love for life and a one of kind sense of humor. In her spare time she enjoys scuba diving, quilting, animals and she is a lay preacher.

Tuesday – Patients Continue to Arrive at Kalibo Hospital

Feb15

As of screening day on Sunday, over 35 patients were scheduled for surgery. Potential patients continued to arrive on Monday and Tuesday due to “word of mouth” and a radio advertisement.

Monday’s patients moved into the ward immediately after screening and settled into life on the ward. The ward is a little slice of Philippine family life! The patient is accompanied by their parents and sometimes aunts, uncles and siblings. It is the most vibrant and satisfying place to spend time while on mission as a volunteer gets to experience Philippine culture, something that most of us get few chances to be a part of. Each patient and their family are given one single bed. This becomes their “home away from home”. They spend the time waiting for surgery resting, chatting, preparing meals and eating. Unlike in the US, the family provides all care for the patient including meals. I guess this is their way of enjoying food they like instead of the cuisine most hospitals are known for.

The ward can be less than peaceful as for every one patient there are at least 3 other family members with them and then there are the mission and Philippine nursing staff too. This can get a bit claustrophobic, especially in the morning, when many of the patients that received surgery the day before are waiting to be discharged while the patients awaiting surgery are settling in. It’s crowded and hot; but there is no better place to spend time while on mission!

Monday – 1st Day of Surgery!

Feb14

The 1st day of surgery went smoothly! There were 3 operating tables in full use throughout most of the day. Dr. Oscar Hilario, a local surgeon, joined us later in the afternoon. That made it for 2 full operating rooms. The patients were young; they ranged in age from 7 months to 10 years old. The majority of the patients were boys, 10 in all and 3 little girls.  The majority of surgeries were to repair cleft lips. The highlight today was repairing the clefts of 2 boys from one family. They have 3 brothers and sisters who were with them at the hospital. The mother had a cleft lip which was previously repaired and was so excited that both her boys were going to be repaired as she knows how difficult it is living with a cleft lip. To see her happiness makes the long trip from Colorado to Kalibo worth all the time, effort, and money!

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!    

First Impressions

Feb13

We made it through the first day of screening! Unfortunately we did not see as many kids as we had expected and most of them were very young, which is unusual for the city. We hope that over the next few days more kids show up so that we can maximize the use of our whole team here. We have 29 people, made up of everything from surgeons to outreach. Most of the group is from Colorado, but we also have a local surgeon from Kalibo, Dr. Samman from Hong Kong, three women from the UK, and several people from across the United States. Overall the group is diverse, dedicated, and fun. The local nurses helping us at the hospital are incredibly friendly and they provided invaluable help yesterday with translation between our team and the Filipino families. Today we look forward to starting surgery, with many double cleft lip and palate operations for the kids. With low number of scheduled surgeries, we are excited that we can give every child the operation they need.
Thank you for all your support and keep checking back for pictures of the screening, surgeries, and families!
Hannah Van Wetter, outreach

We Made It!

Feb11

The team is in Kalibo, and all in one piece.  Thanks to the hard work of Jay and Donna, the flights and connections were easy and painless.  We are ready to go to the hospital tomorrow am for orientation, unpacking, and screening of the kids.
stay tuned!
amy

One Week Away

Feb3

This time next Thursday the 10th team Mending Faces will be arriving at DIA to start our journey.  Follow us along the way as we post messages, updates, and photos.

Here’s to a successful first mission!

Amy

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