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By: Clarissa Cisneros, Emergency department coordinator, Providence St. Joseph Medical Center
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” M. Mead
It’s day two of surgeries. Our feet are wet in routine. New approaches to the flow of patients from pre-op to OR and back down to recovery have been reviewed and fine tuned. Three rooms and fourteen surgeries later, our day is done. Great! Sounds like you’ve all got it down, right? Well, yes and no. Do you sense a story coming along? Are you finding that sweet spot without my prompting? Good, here it goes.
On Monday, the first day of surgery, a news crew came in to Hilario Galindo to document this “jornada,” (expedition). The segment aired on local television station channel 46, and essentially spread word across town that foreign doctors are here for the week. Word-of-mouth is a powerful communication and coupled with the airing of the commercial, our triage day came once again – and when it rains, it pours!
24 hours have passed since the airing of that commercial. Our Tuesday is completed and down by the entrance gate our bus begins reversing into the driveway. Distant storm clouds begin to greet us. One by one, half of the team makes it on to the bus. What we didn’t realize as we drove home was that the torrential rain that seemed to follow us down the road was actually heading straight to the other half of our team that remained in Hilario.
The commercial worked. As we were preparing to leave and just as our bus drove off, more than 50 patients began to gather in the waiting room. All were here to see our ENT, Dr. Raffi Mesrobian. A roomful of patients eagerly anticipating consult for one doctor. It’s crunch time. The timer until the next bus home had been initiated. Patient after patient, the triage system went into full effect. What a village team gets accomplished in four months got done in a matter of three hours. Patients aged 50 years and older were directed to the on-staff Hilario Galindo for references to audiology. Some would be sent to Obras and would still face a year long wait for hearing aids.
But amidst all the chaos, time stood still. In walks Ivan, a 50-year-old shoe shiner. His face is asymmetrical. Along the right side is a growth he has lived with for the past 15 years. Ivan has a parotid tumor. Dr. Mesrobian, along with Kathryn Bullard, guided Ivan down his surgical journey. They explained the possibilities of right sided facial paralysis and how he faces losing sensation from the bottom of his ear down to his neck. He was scheduled fourth for OR room 3 the next day.
A woman walks in with a prescription from a Guatemalan doctor. On it is a written a diagnosis for a tonsillectomy. She has not had the procedure done since it was first recommended; financial limitations overpowered need. After consult, she was scheduled for the next day.
Later, a special education teacher approaches staff with a 10-year-old student to serve as his interpreter. He cannot convey his difficulties on his own; language is an obstacle. With no significant linguistic progress over the past 5 years, his teacher is his momentary voice this afternoon. He has difficulty breathing through his nose. They come today in hopes of good news from an ENT consult, hoping the outcome brings an end from all the teasing from his peers. His chronic allergies force him to breathe with his mouth open, making him of interest to his peers. Teasing cannot be cured with surgery.
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