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Guatemala City – October 20, 2016

(Story by Lauren Holcomb and Photography by Leslie Spencer)   The 2016 Guatemala mission is coming to an end today with our last day of surgeries. The most exciting part of all the work that we do here is giving a baby or child back to the mother after the surgery. To help you understand how this works I have to explain how the hospital is laid out. Downstairs are all the patient rooms, two families per room. When it’s time for surgery a mother will hand off her baby to a nurse at the end of the hallway and watch while they step in the elevator and head upstairs to the operating rooms. The mother will then wait in a wheelchair to receive her baby after surgery, and she doesn’t see the results until the baby is placed in her lap. Of course it’s emotional for the mother, but also for our volunteers who bring the baby downstairs. It’s...

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Guatemala City – October 19, 2016

(Story by Lauren Holcomb and Photography by Leslie Spencer)   It’s the afternoon of day three, the sun is shining after a rainy morning and we’re starting the last surgeries of the day. The past two evenings have ended after 7pm, which makes for a long 12-hour day, made much longer for our surgeons and nurses who are on their feet all of that time. Despite the long days the entire Austin Smiles team is in good spirits and I think that’s pretty remarkable. It’s a testament to the dedication and sense of service that exists in each volunteer on this mission. I also want to emphasize how inviting and warm the volunteers are on our team, especially towards those of us who don’t have any medical training.   Today I’d like to spotlight one group of volunteers- our amazing PACU (post anesthesia care unit) nurses. The PACU is where the babies and children head to after finishing surgery and...

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Guatemala City – October 18, 2016

(Story by Lauren Holcomb and Photography by Leslie Spencer)   Day two of surgery is coming to a close and I can’t stop thinking about my morning that started off in the operating room. I stepped in just in time to watch Dr. Crawford finish up stitches on the cleft palate of baby Derek, and then stayed while he woke up from anesthesia, crying, fighting, and taking some time to control his breathing. While I was near tears after seeing him wake up and hearing his cries, I was surprised at how excited his medical team was as well. It really shows how invested they are in each child and the quality of care provided by Austin Smiles. There are two stories that stick out in my mind from today that really illustrate just how incredible Austin Smiles is. First I’ll tell you about Angel who is a two-year-old from Guatemala City.   (Two-year-old Angel)   I came across Angel...

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Guatemala City – October 17, 2016

(Story by Lauren Holcomb and Photography by Leslie Spencer)   The sun was barely up this morning when we loaded the vans and left for the hospital at 6:30 for the first day of surgeries. It’s easy to forget what day it is here, but we quickly figured out that it was a bustling Monday morning in Guatemala City. Upon arrival at the hospital the medical team headed upstairs while the rest of us visited with families in the waiting room. Before getting started, Dr. Lauren Crawford told me about a Mayan mother and baby that she met yesterday and said that I just had to meet them. A short while later I heard the same thing from Carolina, our fabulous translator. The story of how they got here is truly incredible. To give you some context, the mother, Maura, is Mayan and she speaks a Mayan dialect and does not speak Spanish. Her friend, Elena, traveled with her to...

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Guatemala City – October 16, 2016

(Story by Lauren Holcomb and Photography by Leslie Spencer)   The 2016 Guatemala Mission has officially kicked off with triage day! Four vans with almost 40 volunteers left our hotel at 6:45am today and headed to the Moore Pediatric Surgery Center. My head is spinning from a full day of evaluations with hundreds of babies, children and parents crowded into every nook of the hospital. Below is a recap of day one: Check-in The Moore Center staff runs this station, gathering basic information if we don’t already have it and checking vitals such as temperature and blood pressure. Many patients are brand new to the Austin Smiles team, but some have been treated before and are here for the next phase of surgery, such as fixing a cleft palate after the lip was repaired last year. Surgery Below you’ll see a photo of all five surgeons evaluating a baby boy and determining that yes, he will have surgery this week!...

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