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More Scenes from Surgery Days

Photography by Kris Kennedy                                                  

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The Mission Approaches its End

by John Paschal     It is 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, and the sun has risen on the overnight rooms at Hospital Militar Central.   In Habitacion 7-8, nine-month-old Karina Vasquez Perez is crying in the arms of her mother, Reyna, as soft white sunlight filters through a window covered loosely by a thin green drape. Karina’s crying might strike an observer as irony. Just four days ago, Karina played cheerfully in the arms of her mother as they waited in the crowded hallway during triage, her cleft lip no hindrance to her happy smile.   Now, having undergone lip surgery, Karina is sending incongruous tears down a reconfigured face. Indeed, all that remains of the cleft so conspicuous on Sunday is the neat vertical line so discernible in 7:30 sunlight.   Of course, Karina can be forgiven her outburst. She can’t yet see, and is too young to understand, what any observer can clearly perceive: The girl has a...

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Scenes from Surgery Days

Photography by Kris Kennedy                                                                          

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Scenes from Day 2

Photography by Kris Kennedy                                  

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Day 2 — The Mission Continues

by John Paschal     It is 9 o’clock on Tuesday morning, and two-year-old Herminia de la Cruz is already a rock star.   True, the little girl in pigtails is not singing a power ballad in front of thousands of worshipful fans, nor is she freestyling on a Fender Strat while security guards push groupies off stage. What she is, in the triage room of Hospital Militar Central, is the latest embodiment of an appropriate cliché. Herminia is the center of attention.   No fewer than six Austin Smiles team members are crowded around the girl as she sits at the edge of an exam bed. A passerby would expect to see at least a few paparazzi. Problem is, Herminia has refused to play to the crowd. Jennifer Skinner, a volunteer administrator from Austin, is engaging the girl with the universal language of baby talk, designed to draw a smile. Maria del Carmen Ugarte, a volunteer translator from Spain,...

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