Sunday afternoon, we unpacked our personal things and headed to the hospital. We unpacked 10 chests of medical supplies (As well as the requisite bag of m&ms!), and some small toys to send home with the children when they leave the hospital.. Then, we headed to Screening Clinic. We scheduled 13 operations, hoping to get 10-12 done on Monday. It is an education in patience to understand what these families have been through to get here. Many are bringing their infants and just starting down the path of multiple procedures that might be necessary to correct the cleft deformities. Some are bringing older children who have had to bear the brunt of teasing and the burden of speech, feeding and social ostracism for years. I have to resist the urge to hurry the nurse to get the next patient back as soon as the exam room is available–it doesn't take me long to relax and learn some patience from my patients. They typically come from distant villages and often take buses to get here. A few speak English, most Swahili or other tribal languages. The OR tech told me today there are sixty tribes in Kenya and he asked how many there are in the US. (He suggested we have just one tribe, but I'm not so sure). We also see patients from Somalia and other nearby countries.
Below you'll see the view outside the clinic room window, which seems to me a metaphor of hope for these children–an open window to a better future. This cleft lip/palate clinic has been manned by US physicians for 13 years or so and every year at least three surgical teams visit for this purpose. The team members for this trip come from South Carolina, Virginia, Missouri and Oregon. After twelve hours of nonstop patients in an unfamiliar hospital, we are pretty tired. Rounds are at 6:30 tomorrow, so I'll sign off for now.