Well hello Walkers! I hope you are all having as great a day as we did! Today was a fantastic day, one that none of us here will soon forget.
Our bus rolled away from Hotel Rey today at 630am, right on time. Felipe who is notoriously late but is so nice and such a great guy that no one even says anything to him was even on time. Felipe is Chilean, a med student at Harvard, and a mainstay on our team. He is one of our interpreters; a loveable guy who has the thickest hair of anyone I have ever met. So imagine if you will because Felipe is notoriously late, that I have seen the most amazing bedhead hair-dos in the world when down in the DR! This morning Felipe’s hair resembled a 1947 Studebaker Wagonaire Station Wagon pulling into a station to get some fuel. The thing is, that nowadays people pay a lot of money to make their hair look like they just woke up but Felipe just comes by this naturally. He must save a ton of money! Actually I am very jealous that he can do this, as most of you know there isn’t an awful lot up there for me to work with.
And speaking of 1947, our WWII era autoclaves ruled the day today, or perhaps more aptly put would be to say they made our lives miserable today. We began well with everyone getting first cases underway and things looking good. After successfully going through our first cases, we were getting things set up for our second cases. When we began popping open the instrument trays, one after the other after the other after the other etc. ad nauseam showed indicators that had not turned meaning that we could not be sure the instruments were sterile. For us what this means is that they simply cannot be used and we must start all over again. If we were at home in the US it would be a fairly simple solution of going to get new supplies and keeping our days moving. Here in the DR with our limited supplies and resources it means that we have to take the set that just had a bad run and re-wrap and re-sterilize it and hope for the best, which is about a 60 minute delay. Add on top of that, that EVERY room had the same problem and we were in an impossible situation. After our first re-run also failedwe got our best minds together and came up with a way to solve the problem. We changed the wrappers on our trays, made some weight modifications, and did some other mumbo jumbo. This solved the problem so that we are fairly confident that we won’t have bad runs but it also adds an extra 45-75 minutes of turnover/sterilization time to EACH and EVERY surgery. Needless to say, about 2/3 of the team left the hospital after 730PM tonight and 1/3 of us left at about 930PM so we have had pretty long days.
So why, you may be asking, did I start out this note to you all by saying today was a fantastic day that we will not soon forget? Well, cuz we did 15 joint replacements on people who really needed them, that’s why! We did 11 knee replacements, 3 primary hips and 1 hip revision. I was in a great position to see all of these patients today and they were all beaming and smiling, eager to have their surgery, even powering through our unfortunate delays. These folks know that because of you Walkers and because of our OWFTM team (those of you at home and those of us here now) they are getting a chance to thrive once again, a chance to re-enter a life that has somehow passed them by and left them lonely on the side of the road. They see others they want to keep up with, jobs they want to do, kids they want to play with, spouses they want to do life with and yet it is just somehow always a pinch out of reach, just beyond their fingertips…
Take Senora Flora for example. She has given me permission to tell you a little bit about her and to show you her picture. This is her in the recovery room:
Today Senora Flora was one of our very last patients to be done. She had been in Juan Bosh hospital since yesterday evening, waiting. Waiting and not eating. Most of you have been NPO before where you cannot eat or drink before some type of procedure. Well, there we were being delayed time and again by our crummy autoclaves. And there was this wonderful woman who wanted to get back to doing what she does which is much the same as any of us would want. She just wanted to re-engage with her family, she has been slowed dramatically by a horrible painful arthritic knee. Since we were running far behind, many of our residents were gone for the day and instead of a resident doing it, I was holding Senora Flora while Dr. Broad administered her spinal anesthesia for the surgery. But instead of me holding her, Senora Flora kept hugging me, tighter and tighter and telling me how happy she was that we were doing her surgery so that she could get back to her life. Later, after a successful surgery I saw her again and through one of our interpreters she asked me thank everyone who was responsible for her being able to get back to life, to catch up to some grandkids, to finally get back to things that are meaningful to her.
What is amazing is that that hug was given to me at about 630PM. I had been there for almost 12 hours, I had literally been running from one task to the next, I had not eaten breakfast or lunch (Ramona was not happy with me at all) I was hot and thirsty and had been problem solving non-stop for what felt like was a week! That one hug reminded me why I was there, why you all support what we do and enable us to continue to keep doing it, and it filled me with enough energy to make it through the day and write you a note at what is now closing in on 1AM here in the DR! Her gratitude and thankfulness were sincerely heartfelt and her appreciation for all of you and what you do is, well, she just wanted me to say thank you to each and every one of you…
Cadillac Autoclave update #2
Peter M as described before is an amazing man! He spent the ENTIRE day today working on the autoclave. This is a highly complex machine and like the proverbial onion has many layers. Each problem that is fixed causes something else downstream of it to malfunction once it is tasked to work again after many years of collecting dust. Peter is very confident that he (along with Hugh, Peter Dowell, and Allorio one of our host’s engineers) is almost finished with the chore of getting it up and running. When we do, days like today will be distant memories and bad autoclave runs will be a thing of the past, and the only run we will get is from those pesky plantains!
Plantain Health Facts:
Ok, this is directly from a reputable, scientific, peer-reviewed, food research organization. And they say it “seems” to be safe when taken by mouth by “most”adults. Um, what? Does this make any sense to anyone? “Seems” is not very reassuring or definite. “Most” is also sorta ambiguous, right? And seriously? It can cause diarrhea AND constipation in addition to high AND low blood pressure? Does that mean the same person is conflicted all in the same gastrointestinal distress period? I could get diarrhea and be constipated all at the same time? This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read and I haven’t even gotten to the part where the disgusting bananawannabe can affect my blood pressure up or down seemingly also at the same time. And if it unsafe to apply to my skin, what about my insides? With all of this in mind, I have a much better idea: why not just eat a banana instead? Or even a Styrofoam container? Even that has more flavor than a plantain…