Creating Smiles, Improving Lives

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 nervous as if it were my own child in surgery. From the nerves I was sweating up a storm in my polyester scrubs. The first thing I saw was the patient breathing slowly – in and out, in and out – with Dr. Simi Randhawa, one of our anesthesiologists, holding the Sevoflurane over his face. Once he was asleep then things progressed rapidly. IVs were placed, tubes were put in for breathing, surgical supplies were laid out, the nurse prepped the patient, the surgeons geared up, and then suddenly the child was ready. The surgeon called out for his first instrument, then his second. Incisions were made, the surgery had begun.

As someone who had never seen a surgery before in real life, I stood there in awe while it all seemed to happen so quickly. When a child comes in with bilateral cleft lip, one of the more pronounced cases, the surgeons need to sew up both sides to make a lip. This seems to come easily for them but as an outsider I cannot even begin to understand how intricate the details of the surgery are. As the last stitches went in, he looked like a different person. The surgeons then stepped away to let the anesthesiologist wake the patient up. Although most surgeries take about one to two hours, time seemed to speed up and the next thing I knew we were out and off to PACU.

On this trip we have three OR’s going  at the same time with patients in and out for almost 12 hours all day for four days. Each OR will work on about four to five cases a day, mostly cleft lip and palate, but some may be things like syndactyly. We are a plastic surgery foundation specializing in cleft lip and palate but sometimes, if there is something else we can do, we may take on a special case like the one below.

Every surgery takes on a special meaning for every volunteer here because we are here to change the life of every individual patient who walks through our doors.

If you would like to donate to our Veracruz trip, please do so here! Thank you!

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

Austin Smiles - local services Camp Amigo photo

Medical Mission Trips

Austin Smiles goes on 2-3 medical mission trips annually

Austin Smiles - local services spring picnic photo

Our Local Services

Our local program support for children born with Cleft Lip and Palate in Texas

Austin Smiles - local services sponsor locally photo

Sponsor a Child

Make a difference for a child in need