El Salvador. Monday, February 11, 2019
Photography by : Ellise Nicole Photography
Written by : Susan Armstrong

What an amazing day. Austin Smiles (AS) performed ten surgeries today: five lip repairs and five palates. The youngest surgery was on three-month old Jonathan and the oldest on twenty-three year old Ronald.

The AS bus arrived at the hospital by 7 AM, but not before patients and their families who had been at the hospital since 6 AM, as instructed. Patients are not allowed to eat or drink before their surgeries, so those with later surgeries (like four-year old Juan Carlos at 2:30 PM) were justifiably ready to get surgeries started. Despite being hungry and thirsty, everyone was incredibly patient. Children and young adults sat calmly with their families in a crowded hallway with nurses and staff running too and fro, faithfully taking direction from numerous professionals, waiting for their or their loved ones’ names to be called.

Take Giselle who was getting her cleft lip repaired. This brave four-year old had a smile on her face at all times, right up to going under anesthesia. Her operation went smoothly and she was so happy to see her mama when she woke up. The doctors and staff couldn’t help but fall in love with her.

Five new patients walked in today, so both operations and triage occurred simultaneously for the first few hours of the day. The OR (Operating Room) was in a different part of the hospital than yesterday’s triage, so new set-up and systems were needed. Three operations were going on at any one time, each with two surgeons, one Anesthesiologist, one CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesiologist) and CST (Certified Scrub Technician). Non-medical volunteers helped in between operating rooms where able and were able to witness the surgeries first-hand. An average surgery took between one to two hours.

After surgeries, patients were woken, monitored, and able to see their families. They will stay at the hospital overnight to be further monitored, and then come back in a week to have stiches removed by a local doctor. Today was just the start of their transformation journey.