The Mölnlycke Health Care blog
Volunteering with Operation Smile in Bolivia
As part of Mölnlycke Health Care’s ongoing support for Operation Smile, a non-profit organization that provides free surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children around the globe, Mölnlycke Health Care employees can volunteer to take part in Operation Smile missions. Employees Anna Dahlberg and Adam Dansby recently returned from an Operation Smile mission to Santa Cruz, Bolivia and will share their stories.
Part one: Adam Dansby writes about the two-day prescreening process
Day 1 – Prescreening
Wake up call at 5:30 and it’s out the door for a bite to eat and to jump on the bus. From all over the world, we have travelled to Bolivia to embark on our actual journey. We arrive wide-eyed, full of anticipation, but not knowing what to expect.
The torrential rain has made many of the roads impassable. But by 7 am, the waiting area is filling up with nervous moms, dads and kids. And not just any kids. But some of the cutest little guys and girls you have ever laid eyes on. They are smiling, laughing, running and doing what kids do – having fun. Their energy is contagious and it lights up the hospital like a 100-watt bulb.
For the next 10 hours we take photos, prepare medical record files, interview parents and try to find order in what is a somewhat chaotic scene. The volunteers have showed up in full force and are armed with balloons, crayons, books of stickers, and of course, big smiles. The kids have come ready to play so it was a match made in heaven.
After the families had left and the last folder was filed, we headed home to digest the day’s events and sample the local fare. While sharing stories and wine, we slowly relaxed and let the day start to sink in. We are on the front end of a very special opportunity. We get the chance to change lives and answer prayers.
Today was so much fun that I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. This mission’s staff and volunteers are some of the kindest, most caring people I have ever met. I only hope I can contribute in some small way to the goal.
Off to bed now as tomorrow we have another 5:30 am wake up call. If it is anything like today was, we are in for a good time!
Day 2 – Prescreening
Another early morning and we are en route to the hospital by 6:20. The storm has lifted but the roads are still in bad shape. This, however, doesn’t deter many of the families who have travelled long and far. One patient, who arrives at the end of the day, has travelled for 26 hours. At one point, he had to walk for four hours, in the mud, because the bus he was on was stuck and could go no further.
The screening process is broken up into “stations”. Each specialty (plastics, dentistry, speech, etc.) has its own room. Today we rotated around to each of the stations to observe the process.
My favorite experience was in the speech therapy room. A very young mother with some possible learning disabilities had brought in her two month old. The little girl had a cleft palate and lip. It was obvious that the child was also underweight. Margi, the therapist, spent the next 45 minutes, counseling the mother on how to care for the baby. She showed the mother how much, how often, and how to properly feed her daughter. It was clear the young mother had never received guidance on how to do this. It was such a beautiful moment to watch Margi cradle this tiny baby and show the mother how to prepare and hold the bottle. She gave her the weekend to practice and made an appointment for them to come back and see her.
This team of medical volunteers cares so much for these children they have never met. And the parents are so appreciative of the opportunity to change their child’s life. It is a connection that I have never seen anywhere else.
After another long day of prescreening, we all gathered for dinner to discuss the day’s events and relax. In such a short time, the team has bonded and become closer.
I am so grateful for this opportunity to work with such a great group of people. Surgery week starts on Monday and I can’t wait to see how things go!
The Mölnlycke blog will pick up Adam’s story again later – be sure to check back with us or, better yet, subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss out on how Adam’s volunteer adventure turns out.
Volunteering with Operation Smile in Bolivia - Part two: Anna Dahlberg chronicles her experience in her Operation Smile diary
Volunteering with Operation Smile in Bolivia - Part three: Adam and Anna start their second week with Operation Smile: Surgery week
Volunteering with Operation Smile in Bolivia - Part four: Adam and Anna head into days four and five of their Operation Smile surgery week