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 evaluate if it would be safe to do surgery on them. Children and parents came and went for eight hours straight. During this time, no one ate or took a break. It was a constant flow of 94 patients. No one complained.
Walking around and seeing the children crying from exhaustion and the parents too tired to even speak gave me a sense of heartache. The families waited in the heat for hours and hours to hear if their baby was one of the lucky few selected to receive surgery. For some it paid off and for others, unfortunately, for one reason or another, we had to tell them no.
Tomorrow we start surgery on a few of those 51 patients who were chosen! It will be another eventful day, full of tears, both sad and happy, as we change the lives of these children.