Putting a surgical mission trip together truly takes a village. Often people ask about the details so I thought I’d include some of the logistics here. For this trip, we have Liz Wood–Hallelujah!!! Liz is very experienced as an ER and OR nurse who has traveled with and organized numerous surgical mission trips around the world. She also has an incredible knack for procuring donations–including her latest coup– a Valleylab cautery machine! We are excited about that, though pondering how to pack it. I think she already has five large suitcases stuffed with items such as gauze, IV tubing, syringes, needles, IV start kits, endotracheal tubes, and patient gowns just to name a few…
I’ve also got suitcases in my office with anesthesia medications, antibiotics, surgical instruments, a cardiac monitor, intubating laryngoscopes and suture. My instrument sets are wrapped in wraps made by Kim Rispoli (who I have not had the pleasure of meeting). Her sister, Deb Gritzbaugh, connected us. Deb marked all the instruments with color coded instrument tape to keep the trays separated and organized properly–Deb is a retired OR nurse who has traveled to Kenya and Ecuador for cleft trips. This was done after Juliana Bertucci painstakingly cleaned off old instrument tape (the tape is color coded to the sets, so they are easy to keep separated). That project took hours, and involved a small cut to her finger–no worries, she’s fine now. Paul Bertucci (Secretary, board member) set up the domain name for the website, is making some adjustments to the monitor we’re taking to allow use of multiple types of blood pressure cuffs, and has been involved in editing Bylaws and other documents. He also customized my Woodson, a stainless steel instrument used for cleft palate surgery. Jim Fielding of Orthomed, Inc., helped me fill out my cleft lip and palate instrument trays, customizing a tongue retractor for the Dingman and donating another instrument. Mishelle Nace is collecting information and bottles/nipples for feeding babies with cleft lips/palates, until they are surgically treated. She is gathering bottles for dispensing acetaminophen and antibiotics post operatively and organizing teaching materials for Ugandan medical staff. Mark Simon has procured 4 pulse oximeters from Americares that we will take with us and plans to do training sessions with the hospital/clinic staff on their use. Clay Van Leeuwen is bringing instruments and additional suture necessary for the surgery. Sarah VanderZanden has been collecting financial donations, coordinating supplies and secured a donation for much of the Dermabond (tissue glue) we need! MAP International donated some of the needed suture.
Nina Bertucci has been writing and collecting information for website content. Jennifer Searls (board member) has put together a beautiful website in 36 hours after tactfully offering to do so when she saw what I had struggled to put together–Thank you Jennifer! She is instrumental in planning out our communications, editing media and documents and cheering me on for the past 10 years until I finally formed GMAST. Elisa Burgess, who has traveled to the Philippines on several cleft trips, and Emily Hu have been collecting methylene blue which is used to mark out the incisions prior to surgery. Ed Bleynat (board member) has reviewed Bylaws, financial policies and other legalistic items. Several of our supporters have clicked the DONATE button and supported us financially to offset the many expenses that add up for a week of specialized surgery. Many, many people have clicked to Like us or to Share our stories to spread the word. All of the team members have had to submit volumes of paper to the Ministry of Health in Uganda to become licensed, as well as having had to pay the licensing fees. We’ve all had to update our Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis, Meningitis, Influenza, Tetanus vaccines if we didn’t already have them. We’ve all gotten prescriptions for malaria prophylaxis as well. The list goes on…and I will try to update it and recognize everyone. Please ping me if I’ve temporarily forgotten to mention you!
Thank you to an amazing village that keeps growing–bridging the gap between what people need and what they have, one smile at a time.