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Posted By: Meredith Rizzo on May 26, 2011

Labels: Americas , Ecuador, Disaster and Health Crisis Missions , Humanitarian Aid, Volunteers

Project HOPE volunteer Molly Rubinoff moved quickly throughout the Pediatric Post-Op unit, stopping only to fill out paperwork.

“I'm losing my two little ones today,” she said disappointingly.

I knew who she was referring to. Two children had come into the department the day before with broken arms. 

One of those children was a 4-year-old girl that had been admitted with a severely disfigured arm – the result of an old fracture that had not healed properly. The girl had begun to face ridicule at school before her mother brought her to one of the Continuing Promise 2011 screening sites in Ecuador. The girl's arm was reset aboard the ship and she had spent the night in the Post-Op unit of the USNS Comfort.  

The other child was a 9-year-old boy. He had fallen over a year prior and broken his right arm. Never set properly, his arm had healed in a way that he could no longer move it.  

Rubinoff had taken care of both children post-operation and was delighted to see their progress. She was also sad to see them leave.  

There was another patient that also affected the Project HOPE team. 

A 40-year-old man had come aboard for a cleft lip and palette operation. Cleft lips and palettes are often corrected early in childhood in places where access to healthcare is readily available. In this case, the man had undergone a lip operation at the age of 14, but his palette had never been operated on. He needed to have a lip revision, palette correction, and his nose fixed to correct a deviated septum.  

I went to visit him before his operation. He greeted me with a beaming smile.  

The operation lasted around six hours. Project HOPE volunteer Deb Atwood provided anesthesia during the operation. She had spoken with him prior to the operation and found him to be outgoing and enthusiastic about finally having the procedure. Patients aboard the Comfort are allowed an escort during overnight stays.  

“He told me he didn’t have anyone to stay with him,” Atwood said.

It wasn't until later that Deb and I heard how he'd reacted upon waking. Wendy LaFague, a Project Hope volunteer working in the recovery room (PACU), recounted the story. He had asked to see what he looked like. With no mirror around, one of the nurses took a cellphone photo and showed it to him. He was so happy he had tears streaming down his face.

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