The Journey  Started

A group of half awake Rotarians met at YVR - Vancouver airport at 5:00 AM on October 26, 2008 to start our journey to Chengde, China. Each one of us had our one suit case stuffed with two weeks clothing and teddy bears. The second piece of luggage is a box of medical equipment and supplies needed on the mission. It is assigned to us and loaded in San Francisco. Each medical and non medical volunteers checks one box of supplies.

After clearing US customs we are on our way to San Francisco to meet the rest of the team. In SF we meet our team and onto United airlines flight bound for Beijing. A few old acquaintance from past Rotaplast missions renew their friendship. We are then off filled with excitement and for those of us who are new to Rotaplast uncertainty. Most importantly we know there are children waiting for us and we have an opportunity to make a difference.

The last pictures have come from Chengde, China where club members Magdalen Leung, Elaine Luk, Jackie Lau, Gail Maida and Dave Rogers have been assisting with cleft palate surgery for 100 children.

PDG Chris Offer has created a blog to record the mission.  Go to the blog to read about the mission.


The last day

Zhao Ming Yuan before & after surgery

The final clinic was held today. There were 15 children still on the ward and about 35 children and teens showed up for the clinic. Those that lived more than four hours away were told to only come if there were complications.

It was truly wonderful to see the children that had surgery earlier in the week. Even with some swelling still evident the remarkable change in the appearance of the children with cleft lips was gratifying. The change was not as dramatic for children with cleft palates but the change in their lives, personal comfort, health and psychological well being is significant.

Small gifts were handed out by some children and parents to the volunteers. One parent brought a box of apples from their own small plot and apologised that that was all they had to give. Hand written notes were posted on the wall by a few of the teens.

The last packing of the equipment was completed. The volunteers spread out across Chengde for the final opportunity to buy souvenirs. Tonight is the farewell dinner.

With mixed emotions we will leave Chengde tomorrow. We have made many new friends at Chengde North Hospital. We have also changed the lives of the children and teens. For the Rotarians it has truly been an opportunity for Service Above Self. For the non Rotarians on the team they too have put Service Above Self.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Final Surgery

Applause and cheers were heard today as the last child operated on during this mission was wheeled out of the recovery room. Hugs and hand shakes were exchanged between team members and Chengde North Hospital staff. The two teams learned to work together and became friends with a shared goal to ensure the best possible treatment for the children.

The Rotaplast team started to pack up, do inventory and complete the final records. The fifteen children operated on today will be checked during the evening by a surgeon and a paediatrician. Tomorrow (Saturday) is the post mission clinic. The majority of the children and their parents will return for a final check-up and advice to ensure a successful recovery. On Sunday the team starts their long journey home or for a few sightseeing in China.

During the week 175 children and teens were examined, 122 were operated on and 214 different procedures were performed. Every operation was free.
A legacy was left to the community of children who are healthier physically and mentally, because their cleft lip and/or palate have been corrected. A gift was left with the medical staff at the Chengde hospital of the opportunity to work with a gifted group of surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses. The American, Canadian and New Zealand Rotaplast medical team in exchange learned from the Chinese medical staff. The exchange of learning and the changed lives of the children is the sustainable endowment of this mission.

Smiles on the children's faces were the only reward the volunteers wanted. The bonus was the many thank yous from parents and the children.