2017 Faces of Tomorrow Bohol, Philippines:
On February 2nd, 2017 the Faces of Tomorrow team embarked on their 10th mission! The team returned to MMG Bohol Cooperative Hospital in Tagbilaran City on the beautiful island of Bohol, Philippines. As with every mission, months of logistical planning took place prior to the team’s departure.
Every year, FOT recognizes the work of the volunteers who go on the trips. The surgeries could not be possible without the medical professionals and support staff so selflessly giving up their time. However, FOT has many volunteers and supporters that never leave the United State, that make these trips possible. Without our generous donors Faces of Tomorrow’s work would not be possible. FOT also has incredible volunteers who do a variety of jobs prior to a mission. They obtain all the necessary supplies and pack all the medical bags (31 for this trip!), process our paperwork at the San Francisco Consulate, and hold fundraisers and toy drives. In addition Faces of Tomorrow also has dedicated volunteers in the Philippines. The Abounding in Love Organization identifies patients and, in some cases, provides transportation to get to the hospital for screening and surgery. There is also the infamous Charina who handles everything from hospital logistics to hotel accommodation, to transportation, and so much more for our team. Finally, our sincerest thanks to MMG Bohol Cooperative Hospital and Congressman Aris Aumentado for all the assistance, warm welcome, and hospitality to our team.
It takes A LOT to get a medical team and three operating rooms worth of supplies halfway around the world. This year the team came from Ohio, Tennessee, and the Sacramento/Bay Area of California. Before departing SFO the Ohio group’s flight was rerouted and terminated in San Jose (instead of SFO) in the height of rush hour. However, the team was able to book a private shuttle service, and everyone arrived and boarded in SFO with the rest of the group!
FOT arrived in Manila ahead of schedule and had a delay on the connecting flight to Tagbilaran, resulting in a 7 hour layover at the Manila airport. However, the team used this time to meet in their respective teams (surgical, OR, floor, etc.) to discuss the schedule for tomorrow’s screening day and the week ahead. The team landed in Tagbilaran to balmy weather and a warm welcome on the tarmac from Congressman Aris Aumentado and his staff, as well as members of JCI Chocolate Hills.
Upon arrival, the team headed to Hotel KEW, whom provided amazing service to the team for the duration of our stay. After having a quick lunch and storing personal bags, the team headed over to the hospital. New team members took a tour of the hospital and those 31 medical bags were dropped off. Finally after 36+ hours of travel, the team headed back to the hotel to eat and meet to discuss the logistics of screening day and how the week would unfold.
On, Sunday, February 5th the team held the Screening Clinic. The Faces of Tomorrow team saw over 80 potential patients. Patients arrived by 8am and waited hours to be seen by the team. The children were given bouncy balls, Hot Wheel cars, and other small toys to play with – these were sent by our young volunteers in the States. In addition, Abounding in Love Organization also brought in toys and a play mat to entertain the children during the long day. Despite the fact that it was very warm and crowded, the families waiting were patient, kind, and grateful. Around 2:30pm, Charina announced to the crowd that 53 would be scheduled for surgery in the upcoming week. Although it’s never easy, the team did have to turn away some patients. There are many reasons patients are not cleared for surgery. It may be because there are other medical issues that need to be ruled out or addressed. In most cases where younger babies or children are turned away it is because they did not meet minimum weight guidelines or were sick, which would make going under anesthesia unsafe.
Monday morning the FOT team was up bright and early, arriving at the hospital before 7am for a day full of surgery. Although there are always small kinks in the flow of the first day as operating rooms get up and running, returning to the same hospital helps the team maximize the time focused on patients. At the end of the first day 14 cases were completed on 10 patients.
Tuesday also went smoothly, but Wednesday was a challenging day for the team. Baby Maria, one of Tuesday’s patients, developed some complications overnight and had to be transferred to another hospital with an ICU. This resulted in the team cancelling 6 patients as the schedule had to be adjusted in order to maintain safety. It was heartbreaking to have to tell patients and families that the surgery they were so desperately looking forward to was not going to happen this time. However, Abounding in Love is working hard to get these patients seen by other surgical teams that will come through the area. If not, Faces of Tomorrow is committed to seeing these patients when they return next year. Thankfully, and as expected, Thursday and Friday also went smoothly.
The journey of a typical patient begins when admitted the hospital the night before surgery. The patient arrives around 4pm and along with about 10 other patients, spends the night in an open space on the second floor of the hospital. Each patient is given one cot, although most have at least one other family member with them. It is crowded, but Abounding in Love does an incredible job providing entertainment for the children. The kids play together before getting a little sleep for the night. The next day the patients are taken into pre-op to get an IV placed prior to surgery. Then it’s off to their surgery. A cleft lip can take as little as 40 minutes, but the more complex cleft palate cases can take over 4 hours. After surgery the patient is taken into the post op room where they are carefully monitored by one of FOT’s amazing recovery nurses. Once the patient has come out of anesthesia and are stable, they are transferred to the care of the floor nurses. The FOT floor nurses work closely with the MMG nurses and nursing students. Before the surgeons go home for the night they check on all the patients and the floor nurses leave detailed instructions for the MMG staff. The next morning the floor nurses and surgeons check in on patients to see who can be discharged that day and who may need to stay another night. All patients are given blankets, toys, and stuffed animals lovingly donated by children in the Sacramento/Davis area and sent with the team. These are always special to the Filipino children, most who live in households who earn the equivalent of $1-$2 a day.
The 2017 Faces of Tomorrow Bohol, Philippines medical mission was a huge success. Another huge thank you to Congressman Aris Aumentado, our Philippine counter parts from MMG Bohol Cooperative Hospital, volunteers from Abounding in Love and Tuchzi Organization, and Charina Asunto. A very special thank you to all of our FOT volunteers, donors, and supporters because without you, we would not be able to provide these life changing surgeries for these children around the world. You are helping us change a child’s life one smile at a time.