Inaugural Mission Huiyang, China | Oct 29- Nov 6, 2010

Dr. John Pook is a Consultant Anaesthetist at the University Hospital in Lewisham, London and an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the King’s College London School of Medicine. Nicole Cromwell, RN is a ICU and Recovery Room Nurse at Stanford Hospital in CA. Both volunteer on multiple MMFC missions each year, and both are active members of the MMFC Board of Directors.

A new site for MMFC.    An exciting prospect – an invitation to work at the Huiyang People’s Hospital of Huizhou City.     Most MMFC sites are old friends – this was different.

Tradition, history, culture, language, politics and protocol?     And our patients?  And the hospital?  A tough or an easy week?   Our thoughts while we wait in the spacious calm of Hong Kong International for our small (but also great) team to arrive.   Denny and Russell – surgeons, Nicole and Heidi – PACU, David – OR, Marc and John for anesthesia.

And then it started.    A whirlwind week, unforgettable and absorbing, hectic and hugely enjoyable.

Most important, we did what we came to do and treated 25 children.    There was a lot of teaching and discussion with our local colleagues and they provided us with some fascinating insights into their surgical management of cleft together with demonstrations of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Huiyang People’s Hospital is impressive.    Big and very well equipped.  Workmanlike and comforting.

The staff are proud of what they have and have ambitious plans for the future.

Clinically and technically the mission was quite straightforward.   The children were well prepared, the operating department spacious and comfortable and the postoperative care well managed.

Some patient stories.

Yupeng Shi is a one year old boy from North West China.  It took his mother and grandmother two days to get to the hospital by bus.

When his mother found out that MMFC was coming to China to perform cleft lip and palate surgery, she moved here several months ahead of time to fill out all necessary paperwork and to prepare her child for surgery.  He is her only child and she is so happy with the results of the surgery.  She looks forward to moving back home to show her family and friends how her child’s life has changed.

Qihua Tang is a 10 year old boy with a cleft lip.  He travelled 3 1/2 hours by bus with his family to have surgery.  This is the 3rd surgery on his lip. His first two surgeries left him with horrible scars.  He is in primary school and his mother tells us he is very smart and brave.  People have asked her why she doesn’t have more children and she tells us that she wants to focus all her attention on him and give him a good life.  She tells us that the other children make fun of him but she hopes that after this surgery, his life will be much better.

Song Hui is a 4 year old orphan with a cleft palate.  We learned that the orphan children get their last names by the first three letters of the province they live in. Song is from Huiyang, hence his last name of Hui.  Song was abandoned on the street at about 6 months old.  Someone took him to the police station where he was then taken to the orphanage where he has lived ever since.  His nanny hopes he will be adopted someday.  She says she will be very sad to lose him but happy for the prospect of a better life for him.  He plays with the other children but is very shy and doesn’t talk very much.  His nanny wants to say thank you to MMFC for coming to China and caring about the orphans.

All the orphans together!

For the 2010 MMFC mission to Huiyang there is one more thing that must be said.     Worldwide we are very lucky to have great support wherever we go.    But in China this was truly exceptional.      The team must record our most sincere thanks to the local governor and her deputy, the groups who did all the fundraising, the hospital staff, the organising team, our translators, the cleft specialist group from Hong Kong and the visiting medical team. Everyone showed us exceptional kindness and hospitality – everyone was energetic and professional – everyone was engaging and entertaining.

The hospital has three explicit strategies.    One of them is to upgrade through a spirit of “love, unity, quality, devotion and initiatives”.  And that’s precisely what we experienced during our inaugural mission to Huiyang, and it is exactly what we expect to experience when we return in 2011.