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Opinion: Mission opens eyes to a mother’s love

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I was blessed late last year to go on my second medical mission to Quito, Ecuador, with a volunteer nonprofit organization of which I’m an executive board member. Medical Missions for Children is based in Woburn, Mass., and has more than 350 active RNs, physicians, dentists and other medical personnel who use their vacation time to help save children’s lives in numerous countries.

MMFC has been performing surgeries for cleft lip, palate deformities and dental conditions in developing nations for more than 20 years.

On this recent trip, I had the pleasure of bringing each child with his or her mother, father or grandparent to the OR area so they could say goodbye and give each other one more kiss before the child was moved to the OR.

After each surgical procedure, I reunited the family member and child in the PACU. The happiness in these reunions was off the charts, and the tears of joy flowed from everyone each time, including me.

One postop child reunion keeps replaying in my head. The child was 8-month-old Yoritza, who had a bilateral cleft lip and cleft palate and was severely disfigured. The extensive and precise surgical procedures lasted about three hours.

After the operation was complete, I walked into the PACU and was amazed at how different and beautiful Yoritza now looked, with only a small mid-suture line from under the nose to her lip.

I kept looking at the preop photos and saying, “Wow.” As I stared at Yoritza in disbelief, I lost it emotionally. I pulled myself together long enough to get Yoritza’s mother and reunite her with her daughter.

As we entered the PACU, the mom was handed her groggy child. The reaction of Yoritza’s mom was not same as all the others. She did not react with tears or thank yous for everyone. Yoritza’s mom looked at the child she did not know or recognize and just stared. She was stunned and kept wondering if this was really her child. I could not figure out why the mother was not jumping for joy, smiling and showing her appreciation like all the other family members had done.

Then I realized this mom had loved her daughter for eight months the way Yoritza had appeared. Now, we were handing her another child that looked better, but nothing like the one she had been seeing and loving each day.

The next day, I pulled one of our RNs aside and asked, “Was the mom now happy and excited? Did she now accept her daughter’s new, beautiful look?” The nurse said, “She is getting there.”

Tony Bonazzo works as the New England Sales Manager for Gannett Healthcare Group, publishers of Nurse.com.

LEARN MORE about Medical Missions for Children by visiting MMFC.org.

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