(Becky: Here was the message attached to this update
Connie: Here's my reflection for today. It was a great day. Little Sebastian especially is on my mind tonight. Eager to get back tomorrow and follow him through his day.)
The day began with a wonderful breakfast buffet on the Veranda of Hotel Honduras Maya. There was a wonderful spread of fresh local fruit, omelets, a variety of bread products, beans, tortillas, granola, and of course, coffee.
The bus picked us up by 8:00 and we were off to the hospital. Many hurdles are being worked out to proceed with the surgeries. 1) Some of the equipment brought to the hospital on previous missions has not been maintained. So our bio-med tech has been working diligently to get the equipment working again. 2) Local doctors and nurses are “on strike” because the Ministry of Health has not paid salaries, and some of the local medical team is refusing to come in to work. 3) The ICU, where we planned to set up our CICU has 2 TB patients, and one with H1N1 flu. An alternate space in the hospital has been allocated so that we can set up our CICU in a safe location. The medical specialists on the ICHF team seem well equipped to “go with the flow” and come up with alternate plans.
When we approached the Clinic, there were parents and children lining the walls. Worried mothers. Sick children. While the ICHF team moved efficiently along the corridors on their mission, I tried to smile at the children and make eye contact with the parents, wanting to communicate some understanding. Even though I couldn’t communicate with them directly, if one of the mothers made eye contact with me I would point to my camera and then to the child they were holding and “ask” if I could take their child’s photograph. All of the mothers offered their child for the photo. Most of the children didn’t seem to have the energy to even change their expression. But a few were lively and seemed to enjoy the attention. Or they simply enjoyed the distracting from the long wait.
Two surgeries are still scheduled for Monday: Sebastian and Grecia. Part of my day was spent shadowing Dr. Nita Moharty, an ICHF pediatrician, as she examined and assessed children who are being considered for surgeries this week. Nita was born in India, but grew up, in the US, and joined the team from Chicago. Nita speaks fluent Spanish and was very easy and animated in her exchanges with the children. As she spoke to the parents and examined these children I was allowed to move around the room and snap some photos of Grecia and Sebastian.
Sebastian caught my eye the first time I walked down the hallway. His pallor was very noticeable. He had a sweet and soulful expression, and he didn’t show much energy. Sebastian is two, and his diagnosis is VSD (ventricle septal defect). The surgery is a fairly simple corrective repair with a good prognosis. Later, I stepped into an exam room where Dr. De Sessa was performing an echocardiogram. Sebastian was unhappy to be down on his back, but his mother was trying to entertain him by holding her iPhone over his head while he watched a music video. It took me a few minutes to recognize the tune...but it was the Beach Boys song, Barbara Ann....in Spanish. (You know: Ba-Ba-Ba, Ba-Barbarann. Made me smile.)
When I first tried to photograph him, when he was being checked out by Dr. Nita, he fussed and turned away. (Unlike my grandchildren who smile and perform antics for the camera.) Eventually, he looked right at the camera and I was able to take some close ups of his sweet little face.
Next we met Grecia, a six year old cutie with a long brown braid. Grecia was very curious and handling the whole ordeal with an admirable amount of independence. She was curious about the camera, and finally gave me a smile. Dr. Nita burst out laughing while examining Grecia’s throat because she had a wad of gum tucked away on the side. Grecia has asthma, and her diagnosis is ASD (atrial septal defect). She is a dancer and is feeling a lot of chest pain when she dances.
(Becky: Both VSDs and ASDs are considered "holes in the heart". Information about both defects, including illustrations comparing both to a healthy heart can be seen here.)
This hospital would never meet our expectations in the US. We would be horrified to leave one of our loved ones there for treatment.Very few areas are air conditioned. Most of the windows and doors are left open for ventilation, despite the fact that mosquito bites are the cause of Malaria and Dengue Fever. Malaria is not a problem in Tegucigalpa due to the altitude, but there was a recent outbreak of Dengue in Teguc. (This mission was originally supposed to happen in August, but was cancelled because of a Dengue Fever outbreak & the hospital didn't have room to accommodate the ICHF mission.) One of our in-country hosts pointed out a huge reservoir of water right next to the open wards, a hospitable breeding ground for those disease-ladened mosquitoes.
ICHF Baby Heart Mission - Honduras - first to arrive
Taking a tour of the hospital
Families lining the hall ways waiting to be seen.
Grecia with her mother waiting
Asleep in Moms arms after some of the excitement subsides.
Sebastian smiling as his Mom talks to Nita.
Later in the day I got this note. I think it was meant for me, but it just adds to Connie's story and I had to share!:
I'm trying to keep up with FB, and all, but I'm not using my computer at all during the day at the hospital. Spent the day with the camera hanging around my neck. I can't believe the freedom they have given me to be anywhere I want and photograph. ICHF really wants the exposure.
My fears are greatly reduced. I feel safe, staying with the group. The team is AMAZING, funny, friendly, experience, unique people. I'm really enjoying them and they are treating me like equal. I'm probably the oldest, but keeping up quite well. The food is working out and the host org knows I'm vegan and want to accommodate me. All is well. Most fears are alleviated.
I'm a little nervous about going into the OR tomorrow to photograph, but I'm going to do it. Just have to. Wish Yvonne and Elaine were here. Wish you had been able to come. You definitely should some day. Jeff and Sarah should be here to do oral surgeries. I want to go on all of the missions!!! Okay, not really, but it is a wonderful experience. Don't worry about me. Internet access is difficult a lot of the time. I'll do my best to send you something every night.
Thank you for offering me this opportunity.