Story: Kayla Green
Photos: Micah Green
A father’s protective embrace. A mother’s calming coos. A surgeon’s stitch. All done with love. All separate moments coming together, like the rings of a tree, to tell this Alliance for Smiles story.
Day 2 of surgery featured one of the two patients with a cleft palate, and Dr. Ryan Brown made the most of his time to teach whoever wanted to watch, listen and learn. Many took advantage of the opportunity to observe. Surgical and nursing residents from the university hospital stood shoulder to shoulder, arms even often wrapped around each other to support each other’s weight, to take in the actions and lessons volunteered by Brown, who is the youngest surgeon to work an AFS mission.
Necks craned. Ears open. As the surgeries continue, the rest of the OR team ensures the process flows safely and cleanly. Two nurses and two anesthesiologists take a break almost as rarely as the surgeon, working hard and together to support the operation while also teaching and training.
“This is the perfect job for me. I’m so interested in the way the human body works and how resilient it is,” said Lorrie Martin, OR RN (pictured above). After Martin brought the first patient of the day back, 3-month-old Muzeyin Robsa’s parents sit and wait, stoic, hopeful. A hospital closer to their village of Bekoji announced the AfS program, so they got on the road. The mother has seven children, and the young boy is the only one with a cleft lip. His parents said they wanted to get the surgery to alleviate aesthetic and social restraints. Six hours, 280 kilometers later, they wait.
The wait ends with the child cradled in their arms and a first look at their new life. Parents on this Ethiopian mission so far have been emotionally reserved, but actions speak. The embrace. The song sung. Softly, silent tears.
Beyond the OR, beyond the recovery room and the waiting room, families rest. All five first-day patients were discharged today, from the smallest baby girl sleeping to the oldest boy of the trip sitting and staring, his Spiderman jacket no longer on as he embodies the superhero he is.
Bedri Asalti’s parents, who found out about AfS through a surgical resident, put their hands up in thanks. They’ll take their 7-month-old daughter home to her three siblings and watch her grow without a cleft lip. With her full smile.
Amid all the stages of this mission’s moving parts, more walk-ins arrived today.
The rings of a tree tell a story. This story, ever growing, is one of love and of life.