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#SmileSanSalvador- Day 6 (Born to be Brave) June 16, 2016

(Story by Hannah Reed and Photography by Ellie Falcao) We first met Kevin on Sunday—Triage Day at the hospital.  It was late afternoon at about 4:30pm. The rain was rushing down and the sky went from being bright and sunny to dark and overcast. There were still some patients in the hallways waiting to be seen by the doctors- still hoping for a chance to have surgery.  As I walked through the hallway, Dr. Harshbarger motioned for me to join him in the room where they were scanning potential patients for surgery. He wanted me to know that Kevin, a 22 Salvadorian man, was in the room ready to be assessed. He happened to be one of the last people they even looked at and considered, and although the list for surgery had already been finalized, there were a few spots left to be filled. We were all astounded when Kevin told us he had slept on a bench in...

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#SmileSanSalvador – Day 5 (A Magical Operation)- June 15, 2016

(Story by Hannah Reed and Photography by Ellie Falcao)   I’m sitting outside the hospital on a curb close to the entrance with one of our team’s translators, Marco, and his wife Daniella. The sky is sunny and the air is humid, yet there is a cool breeze under the shade of the tree above us. Marco’s English is impeccable- so really, the story that follows will be in his words. “Our story begins when my wife went into premature labor at 28 weeks pregnant. I remember that phone call from her as if it were yesterday. She was very panicked, and I also felt frightened, but I reminded her that everything was going to be ok. We went to a local government hospital since we knew that our baby would have to live in an incubator for a period of time, and it would be much cheaper than a private hospital. The doctors warned us that because she was...

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#SmileSanSalvador – Day 4 – June 14, 2016

( Story by Hannah Reed & Photography by Ellie Falcao) I ended my day at the hospital looking out over the city of San Salvador from a window on the 5th floor. The sun was setting over the city, the birds were singing, and my mind was whirling. Each time I remembered different moments from today, I couldn’t stop shaking my head in disbelief knowing that I got to witness and be a part of seeing families laugh, cry and hold each other as they saw their child go into surgery and come out with a new smile, nose, or hand. This morning Gabriel was the first one on the schedule for surgery. He is a bright-eyed little one-year-old boy, who is so jolly it’s as if he has a smile permanently etched on his face. Because of his contagious joy he stole the hearts of all the nurses, doctors and volunteers that were around him- which is why the...

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#SmileSanSalvador – Day 3 – June 13, 2016

(Story by Hannah Reed and Photography by Ellie Falcao)   The five o’clock alarm this morning was a bit shocking, nonetheless I’m so thankful for the mug of strong coffee at breakfast I was able to gulp down. At 6am sharp the first half of our group loads the bus and drives to the hospital. It’s hard to not be in awe when we drive through the city each day. Have I mentioned yet that the city of San Salvador rests in a valley surrounded by volcanoes on all sides? The views are breathtaking! We arrive at the hospital. The medical team goes upstairs to prep for triage and surgery, the rest of us find ourselves in the waiting room with the parents and children that are scheduled for surgery today. I feel so much joy as I catch eyes with little Lester, one of the babies that was evaluated yesterday. I prayed that he would make it on the...

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#SmileSanSalvador – Day 2 – June 12, 2016

(Story by Hannah Reed and Photography by Ellie Falcao)   Today was triage day at the hospital—very emotional and hectic for everyone. The doctors and team decided which children and adults were candidates for surgery based on their age, need, state of health, and severity of condition. We arrived at the military hospital this morning at 8am, with the whole team dressed in our yellow Austin Smiles t-shirts (yes, no way to miss us!) and split up into two teams. One team went upstairs to the operating rooms to unpack the crates of instruments and medical equipment we brought all the way from Austin and prep the operating rooms for surgery tomorrow. The other team split up into three different rooms to start the triage process. When the children were brought upstairs to be evaluated, they were first looked at by a plastic surgeon. If the child met the requirements, he or she would then go to the next room...

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