This past May, a 16-person team of medical volunteers was deployed to La Paz, Bolivia, to work with ReSurge's Bolivia team led by international medical partner Dr. Jorge Terrazas. The two-week trip, co-sponsored by the American Society for Surgery of the Hand (ASSH), was hand-focused.
Itzel is four years old and has jet black hair, which her mother sweeps back from her face in two sweet pigtails. She is full of curiosity.
When she first came to the hospital, she held her mother's hand quietly and patiently waited to be seen by the ReSurge volunteer team. The team decided Itzel was a great candidate for hand surgery and scheduled the procedure for later in the week. The objective of the procedure would be to fix her right hand. Itzel was born with syndactyly, a condition where the fingers are fused together. The surgery separated her fingers so that she will be able to hold a pencil. For someone as bright and inquisitive as Itzel, use of both hands could open opportunities for her in the future.
On the day of the surgery, she padded into the pre-operative waiting room with her mother, Gladys. Itzel was not scared, but rather full of questions. Longtime volunteer and supporter Sheila Wolfson read her a book in Spanish called “My Trip to the Hospital” to prepare her for her surgery experience. Itzel, fascinated by the pictures of children, pointed at each one. She stopped at a photo of a little girl with a bandaged hand and looked up at Sheila. The little girl in the book was just like her.
Sheila showed her the pictures of the anesthesia mask and put her hand over her mouth to show Itzel where it would be placed. Itzel mimicked Sheila and together they took deep breaths into their hands.
Volunteer anesthesiologist Dr. C.K. Park came back to the waiting room to get Itzel when the surgical team was ready. He greeted her with a warm smile and she was not afraid. Instead, when he picked her up to take her to the operating room, she put her hand over her mouth and breathed deeply to show her doctor what she had just learned. Delighted, he laughed deeply and told her in Spanish what a good job she was doing before carrying her back to the operating room.
Itzel received excellent surgical care from our team of volunteers and partners. Her procedure went well and afterwards, she gave high fives to the volunteers who had helped her.