Bon swa — it’s the afternoon of a busy morning, one that began with a medical team performing surgery (chiriji) on a ninth month old girl who had a webbed hand. The fingers on her left had were fused together. She was with her family at the hospital several days ago because an older sister was sick . Someone on the medical team noticed that the baby had this hand abnormality. The doctors heading the team were Dr. Paul, a pediatrician, and Dr. Tim, a plastic surgeon. Good combination.¬†

¬†They scheduled the surgery for this morning and I asked if I could watch. The medical teams are always welcoming of observers and they often have med students with them. At 7:30 we headed over to the hospital. I was given a mask and a paper shower cap and was told I could stand anywhere. Nine month old Sachin was already in her little hospital gown that said “sleepy little tiger.” Mis Vero (nurse Veronic) was having no luck finding a vein for the IV. The pediatrician tried, no luck. The team’s pediatric nurse finally got the IV started after six more tries. After the needle was taped down, they needed to make a little arm board for her as there were none small enough. One of the nurses tore off a piece of cardboard from a box and, degaje, a splint was made. Little Sachin was crying, yes, but not kicking and wailing the way you’d think she would. Her tiny face and bright brown eyes searched the faces that were peering over her as if to say “are you all OK with this?”

After that she was taken into the OR and Mis Vero gave her an anesthetic via syringe up her nose. Sachin began kicking at this and a few of us held her and talked to her until she fell asleep. (my favorite part of the procedure) Then Dr. Tim injected lidocaine into her tiny hand. He took a slender scalpel and began gently cutting away at the webbing. There was quite a lot of blood, but the nurse continually swabbed the area with q-tips as he worked away at the hand. One of the pre-med students held the baby’s hand in the correct position. It was her first surgery. Pretty soon she began to sweat and sway, but Mis Vero got her a stool to sit on and she composed herself beautifully. The doctors joked that before long she’d be able to see a bloody surgery and go out after for a steak.

Once the webbing was cut away, Dr. Tim cauterized and stitched the wound between her fingers. It was amazing to see big hands perform such delicate sewing. And it was done. The medical team had one more surgery to perform before catching their boat at 10:30. These guys hit the ground running when they’re here and don’t stop until they’re on the plane going home. Last night they were called to the hospital when a woman in labor came in. She was hemorrhaging tremendously. The fetus was already dead. Med students and nurses began donating pints of blood. The woman’s blood pressure dropped to near 0/0. The Haitian doctors stepped away from the table unsure of what to do next. One of them called his brother-in-law who is an ob/gyn. He said to do a hysterectomy. With the assistance of the two American doctors (a pediatrician and a plastic surgeon remember) and the donated blood, miraculously, the mother was saved. I saw her this morning and she looked in good health as her family surrounded her in support.

Little Sachin’s surgery was nothing so dramatic or life saving, but it was life altering. Without the surgery she could not use her left hand. There are no modifications in schools for children with disabilities. And in Haiti there is little tolerance among children or adults for those who are disfigured. People with obvious differences are often ridiculed or ignored. This was simply a case of the right people, in the right place, at the right time performing a small surgery that will have a big impact on Sachin’s future. Glad I was able to see it.

A little foot note to the story is that Sachin’s big sister Aslande is now enrolled in my high school English class. I’ll be able to keep up with her recovery over the next few weeks. Her parents have invited me to visit them at their house. I actually saw them all walking home from the hospital this afternoon. Sachin was resting on her mother’s shoulder, her bandaged had tucked under her chin. I think she’ll sleep well tonight. You too–pase bon nwi. —–Nancy