Hawassa Ethiopia – First Surgery Day

Hawassa Ethiopia – First Surgery Day

Story: Kayla Green
Photos: Micah Green

You know what they say, first time’s a charm. Not uncommon for a first mission to a country, getting the word out about the opportunity Alliance for Smiles provides is critical. Between local doctors sharing with patients the news that children and adults, regardless of age, can receive a cleft lip/palate surgery — for free — and flyers, advertisements and backing from Hawassa’s Rotarians, we are making sure we can impart the most impact while we’re here.

Schedules shift and change to create the best patient experience possible.

Flexibility on mind, hope in heart.

Dr. Anteneh Gadisa Belachew, assistant professor of surgery, general colorectal surgeon and Chief Executive Director with rank of Vice President of the hospital and also President of the Rotary Club of Hawassa, said many walk-ins started their journey as soon as they heard about the opportunity. Regardless of when they come in, this team will ensure any reservations parents have will be replaced by a bridge built with trust and experience-driven  results.

“It’s going to look really good,” Dr. Ryan Brown, this mission’s surgeon, told a mother during screening Monday. Amid more and more parents arriving to put their trust in AfS volunteers, Brown takes time to connect with each patient, make eye contact with the parents. Reassure.

During the all-team safety meeting, Melonie Blancanueax demonstrated how to use the defibrillator in case of need.

By Tuesday morning, word of mouth had spread. Flexibility on mind, built into the schedule and realized. Hope in more hearts.

In the family waiting room, the act of giving a simple toy or beanie baby can transcend language. In the operating room and recovery wards,
among the scissors and scalpels and electric tennis racquet-looking bug swatters, our team and local surgeon assistants, nurses and university
students work together to open the door for these children to have the life any child deserves. The opportunity to be free of social shame. To go to school.

Samuel Mebrat and his father traveled 300 kilometers in six hours by bus from their village of Jinear to get his left cleft lip fixed. Deemed “Mr. Independent” by Melonie Blancaneaux, the trip’s PACU nurse, the 2-year old drank his own water as he sat on Dad’s lap upon waking up from surgery.

Moments earlier, his father was given a first look at his son’s face before he woke. The mission is to fix one smile per surgery, but the result is

“Father is happy,” an Ethiopian PACU nurse said.

After Monday, 19-20 of 21 screened were given the green sticker for surgery. The two-day total reached 30 screened, with 24 approved. Schedule’s filling up. Flexibility in mind. Hope in new smiles.