A Typical Mission Day

As seen through the eyes of a volunteer

Having been on several ICSF missions, here’s what I, as a volunteer, have seen. The first day is when everyone who has learned about the mission comes to the hosting medical facility, hoping to have their child selected for surgery that will change their life.

Each one is registered, their labs reviewed, and their current health and deformity carefully evaluated by the surgeon and the anesthesiologist. Based on the overall assessments, Dr. Williams must select the best candidates for surgery and build the surgery schedule for the duration of the mission. Instructions are given to the first day’s patients and we all try for the last good night’s sleep of the mission.

The next day, the team grabs some breakfast and is off to the hospital by 8:00. The day’s patients are reviewed for any health issues of concern, and the process begins. The OR and first patient are prepped and the surgeries get underway. The typical cleft surgery takes between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the complexity.

Between surgeries, Dr. Williams tries to find a quiet place to lay down and rest his back and maybe grab a protein bar, while that patient is waking up and being moved into “recovery,” the O.R. is prepped for the next surgery, and the next patient is prepped and given anaesthesia. The process is repeated until the last surgery of the day is done (typically 8:00pm or later, but as late as 1:00am). Then the team makes rounds to check on that day’s patients, and those who have arrived for the next day’s surgeries. After final instructions, we head back to our lodging for the night.

As volunteers, we’ve coordinated for a mid-day meal, and seen that there is something to eat between surgeries and at day’s end. Now it’s bedtime (at least it’s supposed to be). Behind the scenes, we’ve learned that Dr. Williams typically spends a lot of time each night writing emails and making phone calls to coordinate future missions in another part of the world. Definitely worth mentioning is the tenderness we witness as Dr. Williams interacts with these little patients. They’re like family, and he has a very large family from around the world.

Design by Melissa Ventura, Development by Drew Bertola and Walter Martin.