On the seventh day of care, U.S. Air Force’s Pacific Angel 2011 team treated a total of 696 patients, the most yet in one day. Project HOPE volunteer Susan Opas has been flooded with pediatric patients for several days now and loves keeping busy treating them.
Opas moved to California after graduating from nursing school at University of Cincinnati in 1971. She always knew that she wanted to be a nurse, ever since acting that roll as a child with the boys while they played war. She is currently a Certified Nurse Practitioner and Health Educator with Kaiser Permanente in Los Angeles specializing in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.
Pacific Angel 2011 marks the first time she has been able to volunteer with Project HOPE. It seemed like the right mission to start with after spending many years in close proximity to the Air Force, beginning as a child near Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. In the last six years, Susan began taking extensive vacations abroad. In these trips to several continents, she regretted never getting to live or spend extensive time among the foreign cultures that she was visiting, inspiring her to start seeking volunteer opportunities like this one with Project HOPE. In the future, she looks forward to working on more short missions like Pacific Angel before retiring makes longer and more frequent deployments possible.
On the second day of the Humanitarian Assistance Rapid Response Team (HARRT) clinic, Susan had a complicated morning patient: an infant weighing only 3 kilos with a skin sack suspending from the back of her head. The sack may have held part of her brain or spinal cord and if broken would have surely been fatal. The little girl was otherwise normal and healthy, without infections, pushing back on Susan’s hands with her feet as she’d expect from any 3-month-old. The mother was taking amazing care of her daughter and was told by the hospital to bring the girl in for surgery when she reaches 5 kilos, surely not expecting the baby to live that long. In the U.S., surgery would have been performed within hours of birth. There was little that Susan could do other than recommend the mother to take the baby back to the hospital before she reaches 5 kilos and to keep up the excellent care of her daughter.
“Cried after that one,” Susan reflected later.
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