Wednesday, February 13, 2019 – Spotlight on Two Volunteers
Photography by : Ellise Nicole Photography
Written by : Susan Armstrong

Today is Day 3 of Operations. The surgeons operated on ten patients from ages 3 to 30. Surgeries included several cleft palate repairs and fistula repair. Days 1 and 2’s rhythm continues, right up until the last patient has gone to Post-Operative Care.

Let’s shine a spotlight on one volunteer duo: Tara & Shanon O’Neill, a mother-daughter team, respectively. Hailing from Blanco, Texas, Tara is an RN who commutes into Austin a few times a week for her shifts at Dell Seton Brackenridge hospital. Shanon is a sophomore at Blanco High School, who speaks fluent Spanish and wants to go to medical school.

Before the summer of 2018, Shanon had participated in a couple of Global Leadership Adventures (GLA) to places like the Dominican Republic where she got to follow a doctor and take patient vitals. However, she wanted to do more. She had found a GLA trip giving her some desired experience in Bali, Indonesia by herself, but Tara quickly vetoed that idea. Tara had previously participated in a few Austin Smiles trips, so she suggested Shanon attend one with her. They participated in Austin Smiles’ 2018 June Vera Cruz, Mexico trip and Shanon instantly fell in love with Austin Smiles. When the opportunity to participate in El Salvador arose, they quickly signed up. El Salvador also had special meaning since Shanon has an adopted sister from there.

In El Salvador, Shanon has instrumental as a translator for the nurses and anesthesiologists in PACU, helping to communicate medical updates and instructions as well as peace of mind with the families and patients. The nurses have also taught her other medical processes in anticipation of going to medical school. To say that this trip has changed her life would be an understatement.