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Veracruz 2017, Kenia

June 14, 2017 Kenia – Written and Photography by Natalie deLeon There are no words to describe the day-in-the-life of a patient and a parent who come for surgery with us at Austin Smiles. Below is the couple of days-in-the-life of Kenia and her mom. Kenia is 9-months-old, from a small town four hours from Veracruz. They arrived solely for Austin Smiles with help from the Rotarian to receive cleft-lip surgery. There is love, tears, smiles, and thoughtfulness throughout. Every parent reacts differently to their child’s surgery. This case was special because both mom and baby have cleft-lip and palate and both were done by non-profit organizations. I want to say thank you to Kenia and her mom for letting me be a part of such a special moment for baby Kenia! If you would like to donate to our Veracruz trip and others like this please donate here!

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Veracruz 2017, Surgery, Day Three

June 13, 2017 Surgery, Day Three – Written and Photography by Natalie deLeon Today I spent most of my day in Surgery. The things our doctors do is beyond my comprehension and beyond the scope of my knowledge, but is fascinating. Before walking into the surgical area I needed to suit up. I felt like I was gearing up for war. First came the scrubs. I unknowingly decided to grab some made of polyester, one size too big, and bright blue. Please don’t wear polyester scrubs in the middle of summer, I definitely learned my lesson on that one. Any shoes will work, mine – Nike tennis shoes, but they always need shoe covers. Also, a hat is necessary. Mine, a cotton hat lent to me by my roommate, Edna, with Latina women on them! This attire may seem like a lot but it is all done for the safety of the patient and yourself. Walking into the first surgery I felt as...

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Veracruz 2017, Surgery, Day Two

June 12, 2017 Surgery, Day Two – Written and Photography by Natalie deLeon I walked into the hospital and immediately could feel the pressure of change I had felt the day before. I knew today would change my life and I would never see people the same way again. I walked into a mom holding her child tightly, a doctor preparing his equipment, the anesthesiologist preparing her medications, all the documents getting organized, crates emptied, cold water put into ice chests. I knew today would be one of those days where a memory is made that sticks with you for the rest of your life. We had our first patient – a sweet little one whose face had terror and fear of the unknown, written all over it. All of the patients get a preliminary check-up again before going down to surgery. We poke, put cold things on them, and take them out of their comfort zone – some cry, some laugh....

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Veracruz 2017, Triage, Day One

June 11, 2017 Triage, Day One – Written and Photography by Natalie deLeon Walking in to the Albergue DIF area made you feel like you had a purpose in life. The atmosphere was thick with excitement, gratitude, respect, and hopefulness. The hallway looked like it went on forever with parents and children lined up as far as this 5”3’ girl could see. Cheers and clapping lasted until everyone became too tired to clap and they thanked and blessed us at every moment they could. The experience overwhelmed every sense I had and only tears seemed to fit the moment. Immediately after the clapping stopped our minds had to shift to work mode as we set up the triage area. The doctors set up two stations. One in a small air-conditioned room where the preliminary decision was made if a patient would be a good candidate for surgery. The other a non-air-conditioned part in the back where the anesthesia team and ENT would...

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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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