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El Salvador 2017, Maritza

February 23, 2017 Maritza – By Kristen Brown; photos by Sarah Carney   Today’s post highlights perhaps the most extraordinary story of our trip – our organization’s 45th – to El Salvador.   Meet Maritza:   Maritza, age 30, and her mother Ana Daisy, came to Hospital Militar on Sunday with all the other candidates and patients to be seen and evaluated for surgery this week.  However, this is not the first time Maritza has come to see doctors from Austin Smiles, and hopefully, it will not be the last. On the evening of April 17, 2014, Maritza came home from her job as a household employee in San Salvador.  She decided to lay down on the bed she shared with her boyfriend, the father of her youngest child, and rest.  Suddenly, and without explanation, her boyfriend – a recently suspended Salvadoran police officer – came into the bedroom, pulled his gun from underneath their bed, and shot her in...

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El Salvador 2017, Third Surgery Day

Third Surgery Day – February 22, 2017 Austin Smiles Volunteers: Going to Extraordinary Lengths for Others  – By Kristen Brown; photos by Sarah Carney An Austin Smiles medical mission team is a mix of veteran-trip goers, first-time volunteers, medical experts, and nonmedical helpers.  Some have never traveled outside of the United States, while some have traveled the world.  Many work most of their days in the operating or recovery rooms back home, while some have never seen a surgery.  Some come knowing Austin Smiles well, while some team members arrive at the airport not yet knowing a soul. In the matter of a day – sometimes even mere hours – the team comes together as a unit, brought together by the common goal of making the mission trip as successful as possible.  The 2017 El Salvador team of 42 medical and nonmedical volunteers is no exception. Today we want to highlight what it takes to be a volunteer with Austin...

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El Salvador 2017, Second Surgery Day

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...

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El Salvador 2017, First Surgery Day

First Surgery Day – February 20, 2017 Elvis & Mirna – By Kristen Brown; photos by Sarah Carney San Salvador– Day 2 of our mission trip began with triage for the 11 patients scheduled for operations.  Dr. Quint Barnes and Nurse Kim Moreno evaluated each patient, took their vitals, and checked to make sure they had neither eaten nor drunk anything past midnight.  Once checked in and photographed by Junior League volunteers Michelle Hagans and Sarah Carney, patients put on green hospital gowns and begin the very long day of waiting for their craniofacial or cleft lip/palate repair surgery. Today we highlight the day’s two youngest patients: Elvis, age one year and five months, and Mirna, age one year and two months.  We remembered their beautiful faces well from the selection process on Sunday and followed them throughout the day of their surgeries. Elvis and his mom traveled from the Santa Ana region of El Salvador, about 1.5 hours by...

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El Salvador 2017, Day 1

Travel & Triage San Salvador– After a very long day of travel on Saturday, February 18, 2017, the Austin Smiles team finally made it from Austin to San Salvador, picking up fellow team members along the way in Houston.  Our team of 42 medical and nonmedical volunteers is the 45th to make an Austin Smiles mission trip to El Salvador in the organization’s 30-year history! We started our first day in country Sunday February 19, 2017 boarding the bus from our hotel, the Crowne Plaza San Salvador, at 7:30 am.  A short ride and a quick team photo later, we were on our way in to the Hospital Militar to hear Leilani Briseño, Austin Smiles Medical Missions Director, brief the team on the day.  On our way inside, we pass the hundreds of children and parents patiently waiting to see if they will be selected as a candidate for surgery during our week here.  After our briefing, team members quickly...

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