Second Surgery Day – February 21, 2017

Samuel – By Kristen Brown; photos by Sarah Carney

San Salvador– On Day 2 of surgery, we want to highlight a baby whose big smile, happy disposition, and incredible transformation touched the hearts of the entire Austin Smiles team: Samuel, age 11 months.  Samuel and his mother, Vilma, traveled seven hours by bus from the Ahuachapán region of El Salvador for Sunday’s candidate screening and evaluation.  They waited for hours to be evaluated by our medical team, and Samuel never seemed to lose his infectious smile.

Samuel is the youngest of five children.  Vilma stays home with the young ones while Samuel’s father works as a farmer.  Vilma previously tried to receive charitable surgery for Samuel through a Salvadoran hospital six times, but he was never selected.  The lack of pro bono resources combined with the high need for cleft lip/palate repair surgeries is simply too high.

Vilma’s aunt heard an announcement on the radio a couple of weeks ago about Austin Smiles coming to Hospital Militar, calling for potential patients to show up for screening.  After traveling for hours, waiting for hours, completing the triage process with the Austin Smiles team, and then waiting even longer for news, Austin Smiles Executive Director Kristen Brown finally lets mom and dad know that Samuel has indeed been selected as a candidate for surgery.

The next day, his surgery day, Samuel arrives Hospital Militar at 6:00 am having not had anything to eat since the night before.  Many babies cry on surgery day because they are hungry, tired, and even scared – but Samuel arrived with his happy disposition and kept smiling almost all day.

Once Samuel completes triage, he waits with his parents to be called back for his primary bilateral cleft lip repair surgery with Dr. Matthew Greives and Dr. Michael Rossi.  He also receives ear tubes from ENT Dr. Chad Whited.  In total, Samuel’s surgery takes two hours and is very successful.  After surgery, Samuel heads to the Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) to be woken up gently by our wonderful PACU nurses.

When PACU deems it safe enough for Samuel to reunite with Vilma and head to post-op, Nurse Cecilia Canales brings a sleeping Samuel to mom.

While in post-op recovering with Samuel, Vilma says she is incredibly grateful to Austin Smiles for completing this surgery for Samuel.  Vilma says Samuel has never been able to eat solid foods as most babies of 11 months are able to enjoy – he only has been able to drink milk, water, or juice.  Vilma is most excited that Samuel will finally be able to eat solid foods.

Sometimes, when a baby has a surgery as physically transformational as Samuel’s, a mother literally will not recognize that child post-surgery.  When asked if she recognized Samuel as he was being handed to her after his surgery, Vilma replied, “Lo reconocí por sus ojos …”

… she recognized him by his eyes.

Samuel is recovering perfectly. He will head back home Wednesday, February 22.