We’re headed home today. In fact, I’m 35,997 feet up in the sky on a Delta flight. It is fun to have wifi in the sky. I’ve been reflecting on what it takes to pull off a successful medical mission trip like this. I keep telling Dr. Clawson that he should write a book on it, because he has got it down to an art form. First of all, you have to have
a dedicated, driven, passionate leader like Dr. Joe Clawson. He is not afraid to ask anyone for anything, in the name of serving these children. If you know him, you know it is very hard to turn him down. Here is a link to his humble website that he designed himself. If you feel so moved, donations are always appreciated and are what makes the wheels turn to treat these children. Follow this link for his website
Dr. Clawson runs five mission trips per year in Zambia, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Ecuador and the Philippines. He must procure suture, antibiotics, children’s tylenol, betadine skin prep, anesthetic gases, endotracheal tubes, gauze, scalpel blades, syringes, needles, lidocaine, suction catheters, etc for each mission. What he can’t get donated, he must purchase. He then organizes enough materials for the estimated number of surgical cases for each trip. He must maintain four sets of surgical instruments (estimated cost of $20,000 at initial purchase), two for cleft lips and two for cleft palates, so that one can be sterilized while the other is in use. He makes sure that there is a talented pediatric anesthesiologist available, or he arranges to bring one. For certain trips he needs another surgeon, and sometimes nurses and OR scrub techs, or photographers and medication preparers–thank you Madeleine! Travel arrangements, drivers and cars in third world countries, lodging and food, foreign medical licenses and visas, proper immunizations and all kinds of contingency plans (such as battery operated headlights for when the power goes out in the OR in the middle of surgery). He has a meticulous organizational system for numbering the patients, and prints and brings his own paper forms for this purpose, including pre-printed post-op order sheets.
Then there are the “just in case” materials he packs every time. I have my own list that I’ve developed over the past 6 years I’ve been doing mission trips, but I enjoy finding out what is on other’s lists. For example, he brings a candle and matches and has never needed them until he was in Congo last week. And, he brings a fly swatter ( I usually do as well) for malaria control. But, the most interesting item he brings is a mouse trap. Personally, I don’t want to think about that one too much and I hope I never regret that it isn’t on my packing list! We physicians tend to put in extra medications like antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea or urinary tract infections, immodium, benadryl (which is illegal in Zambia, by the way). Duct tape and zip lock bags are on everyone’s lists as well. Last, but certainly not least, making friends along the way is critical. Connections and networking are key to making your trip fun, rewarding and successful. Anyway, I’m hopeful he’ll write a book about how to plan, pack for and execute a successful medical mission trip because he does it very well.
Some of the people in our village on this trip include Heather from CURE international in the US, Tim and Melissa Ebbers (he’s the Beit CURE hospital CEO), Dr. Giorgio Lastroni the medical director for Beit CURE, Pastors Harold and Na the Spriritual directors at Beit CURE, Dr. Tshoma the anesthesiologist at Beit CURE, the many wonderful nurses and OR techs at Beit CURE (including TangaNika, Cristabel, Efram, Idys, David, Esther, George, Fred–I’m sorry I can’t name them all personally. We were also joined in the OR by Dr. Giuseppe Poglio, an Italian maxillofacial surgeon now working in Zambia. And, we had two lovely dinners in private homes last week, one at the Ebbers and one with former Zambian President Banda. The Ebbers provided transportation to and from the hospital each day as well.
Most importantly, we are grateful to the parents and guardians of the children. They did not give up hope and through difficult situations, managed to bring their children from near and far to have surgery. Surely, it takes a village, and a lot of guardian angels. Thanks to all at home who’ve driven my carpool, house and cat sat for me, loved and cared for my youngest daughter and covered my call and patient care. See you soon! I’m over Salt Lake City right now…