Operation Smile spreads smiles through Chiriqui, Panama in April 2010!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 5

All the days have been starting off the same. We wake up at 5:45 and go to breakfast with the team, then straight to the hospital or shelter. Breakfast is really good, but we're usually a little grumpy.

Today was the most incredible day yet, and definitely the most emotional. We went to the hospital! We got to see all the children recovering from surgeries from yesterday. We saw the first child to receive a surgery. She was only 4 months old and she was beautiful. Her mother was sitting by her bed beaming. I got all choked up.

Then we watched the babies head off to surgery. One of the nurses stood blowing bubbles for them until they were ready to go. It was hard to see the mothers be all worried about their children, but we assured them that everything would be okay. One mother in particular wanted to know how her baby boy would be put to sleep. We didn't really know how to tell her in Spanish, but we did our best and she understood, especially after our hugs, that everything would be okay. The whole time I watched as the young father rocked his son back and forth waiting for surgery. I was thrilled to get to watch his surgery.

It was the most incredible experience. Dr. Joseph let me watch right up close as he repaired a cleft palate. He is one of the nicest people I have ever met. He explained everything as he went along, and told me I could ask any questions I wanted. I just stood and watched the whole thing from start to finish. I was pleasantly surprised that I could watch without feeling sick. The anesthesiologist was also incredible, explaining what he had to do, and let me watch as he woke up Jose David Cabo, the beautiful tiny two year old boy. It was heart-wrenching to watch him wake up, he was so uncomfortable. I decided I couldn't let him go then, so I followed him to recovery. I got to hold him and soothe him in order to calm him down. I can't even begin to describe what that was like. Finally he rested on my chest and stopped crying. I then got to hand him over to his dad who was so incredibly happy to see him. I plan to go visit him in the hospital tomorrow morning and give him a baby Operation Smile shirt which I bought him today.

Then we headed to the shelter for the afternoon. The kids were so happy to see us again, and have become more and more comfortable around us. We came in wearing bunny ears and the kids laughed and laughed. We played for hours with giant blow up beach balls, scratch art, pipe cleaners, crayons, and more. We had the kids all trace their hands on this giant piece of paper and sign it.

I found out more about Ricardo, the boy who loves my camera. First of all, it's incredible what an eye he has for photography. I can't believe how beautiful the pictures he takes are, and he's only 11. I make him laugh a lot by making ridiculous faces and letting him take pictures of them. Today when I made a particularly ridiculous face he was like "Don't make THAT face again", making sure I knew how ridiculous it made me look. I finally got to asking him why he was here, and it turns out he is getting surgery on his feet. He clearly didn't want to talk about it, but I plan on finding out when his surgery is and going to the hospital to be there when he goes in and comes out of surgery, because most likely I can't watch.

Tonight we went to dinner at Altieri's house (one only a few minutes away). The food and the company was great. Dr. Joseph is going to Washington DC tomorrow for a conference, so tomorrow is the last day I get to see him. He told us at dinner that he is going to miss us very much, and I'm going to miss him too, he has been a wonderful teacher. Everyone is so nice, and I'm so happy to be here!

Shannon and Pam and I goof around all the time and have such fun together. It's so much fun

Tomorrow we will go to the hospital to see Jose and say goodbye to Dr. Joseph. Then we will head to the shelter again.


  1. I am so proud of you Julia. I love you. Daddy

  2. Wow, Julia. This is so amazing, I love reading every detail-it's all so touching and I can just picture you there with the children. I so admire the ease with which you see to be connecting with them. I am so happy this trip is turning out to be everything you had hoped for, maybe more. Love Mommy