Creating Smiles, Improving Lives

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 Smiles and who makes these trips happen so successfully.  From performing complicated surgeries to entertaining children, making runs to local stores for sundries and supplies to making sure patient paperwork is correct and complete, the team operates as one body, with everyone looking out for one another.

We often found always-energetic translator Aisha Dull tirelessly playing and passing time with children waiting many hours for their surgeries:

Our wonderful Junior League volunteer and photographer Sarah Carney, always behind the camera catching so many wonderful shots, takes a moment to stop and comfort a baby post-surgery:

You can always find Speech Language Pathologists Julie Loney and Liana Martinez working with someone – whether in an evaluation room, or often simply in the hallway on the floor, getting in valuable minutes with children who otherwise would not have this therapeutic opportunity:

Where is Anthony Gomez?  Why Wal-Mart of course – making sure our team has everything it needs!  And, Junior League volunteer Michelle Hagans is behind the computer in triage, keeping our patient paperwork organized:

Who makes sure those instruments are clean and ready for the next surgery?  Why surgical support volunteers Wanda Whitaker and Jonny Henderson of course:

Dr. Quint Barnes and Nurse Practitioner Kim Moreno were always on the 6:00 am bus, getting those first patients each day examined and ready for their surgeries:

When not overseeing the anesthesia team in the operating rooms, Anesthesiologist Dr. Stan Young is talking with families in the busy hallway, making sure all intake information is correct for the patients:

Doctors like Plastic Surgery Resident Michael Rossi arrive early each morning to make their rounds to patients recovering in post-op:

Team leader Dr. Raymond Harshbarger and his Fellow Dr. Sarah Frommer discuss their next case together:

You might even find a plastic surgeon suffering from last night’s food poisoning like Dr. Matthew Greives, pushing through – operating while also receiving his own IV fluids:

When working 12-18 hours days, of course everyone needs at least a few moments of down time:

PACU Nurses including Naiomi Catron, Veronica Thomason, and Jennifer Zachary wait patiently until springing into action when a patient comes out of surgery:

Austin Smiles staff members, Trip Administrator Martha Mashburn; Medical Missions Director Leilani Briseño; and Executive Director Kristen Brown, keep the team train running and are always the first ones in at 6:00 am and the last ones out at 9:00 pm or later:

And last but not least – and the very last ones out each night – are Post-Op Physician Assistant Margie Bivens and Nurse Elizabeth Stephens, making sure the last patient brought in from PACU is safely tucked in for the night:

It truly takes a village to make a medical mission trip happen – and all of our volunteers pay either their entire airfare/hotel costs, or at least $750 toward those expenses.  They sacrifice time with their families, use vacation time from work, and make the monetary commitment to be here because they truly love playing a part in these amazing stories of transformation, literally changing lives on these trips.  Thank you Austin Smiles volunteers for your sacrifice and dedication to this mission!

1 in 700 children are born with a cleft lip or palate

$250 covers the cost of one life-changing surgery

150 volunteers annually will change a child’s life forever

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