Susannah W., RN, CRNA

The Free to Smile Foundation is a non-profit dedicated to cleft lip and cleft palate repairs.  To many, fixing a cleft lip may seem like a selfish use of precious resources, as it can be seen as a cosmetic procedure and not ‘medically necessary.’

To the babies whose mothers have stopped feeding them because they are seen as ‘cursed’, this is a new chance for life.  To the children and their families who have been expelled from their villages and ostracized, the ‘cosmetic’ fix of their cleft lip gives them the opportunity for community and resources.

I didn’t know the ramifications of what we were doing before I went.  All I knew was I would be providing anesthesia to little kids who needed it.

We arrived in Niger and started work the next day screening the children for surgery.  The resilience and courage these little children showed was amazing.  They were brought from villages to the hospital, sans parents and bravely did anything these strange white people asked them to…with few tears.

Our group was small for a surgical team: two oral maxillofacial surgeons, one dentist, one operating room RN, one anesthesiologist, and me (Nurse Anesthetist-(to be)).  We worked out of two operating rooms and not only worked withthe local staff, but also were given opportunities to teach them.

In a country where pediatric deaths attributed to anesthesia are five in one hundred (1388 times more deadly than the U.S) , there is a clear need for continuing education in the field.  Seeing the progress that was made throughout the week was so inspiring.  It was such a special opportunity to be able to teach anesthesia to other nurses in another country, knowing that with every new technique or knowledge tidbit we imparted we were lowering the outrageous death rate.

I have volunteered with many different organizations, and The Free to Smile Organization and Cure International were without a doubt the best organized trips I’ve ever taken.  I am so thankful for One Nurse at a Time for helping making this trip a reality. We truly are changing the world, one nurse at a time.”