Laura W., RN, BSN


Ecuador was AMAZING!I had such a great time. It was so different from what I expected, but in the best way possible. Our team was remarkable; we all clicked right away from the first day of meeting each other.

On Sunday, we performed screenings all day of the children who came to be evaluated.  We screened over 48 kids and performed 28 surgeries over five days.  I learned so much and had plenty of opportunities to practice my Spanish.  It was definitely a learning experience which needed flexibility!

The first day of surgeries went kind of slow because we were learning where everything was, best ways to communicate (who needed to interpret) and developing our flow.  The nurses there in the OR were fabulous, so shy of us at first, but by the second day, they were joking with us in Spanish and asking favors and teaching us about their culture.

For me, since I spoke some Spanish, I connected more.  It is like my world paused for a week, and I was able to get a glimpse of life there in the town we were in, in the hospital we were in and with all the staff.  I felt like I was treated normal, like one of them.  They included us, it was like one big hug the entire week, like open arms.  Everyone in the small hospital was so curious to see us and talk with us; the OR was full most of the time.

The women down there astonished me!  The OR would have other procedures going on at the same time as our operations, women would come in to have their babies every day, we would see them go into the birthing room, then a few minutes later, no noise or screaming, they would roll them into the recuperation room and a few minutes after that bring the baby to latch on.

The kids and their parents affected me most.  Each was so different and so special.  We operated on all ages from 2 months to 15 years.  Mostly cleft lips, palates and scar reconstructions (from burns).  So sad to hear some of their stories. On the fourth day, we had a 6 yr old boy come in for surgery; his dad was soooo nervous and scared, more than the patient! After the surgery I went to update his parents, but only the mom was there. I updated her and returned to the OR. Later I learned that the dad had gone to buy a Popsicle for Dr George (our main surgeon), as a thank you!  Oh my goodness that twisted my heart like no other! To think the only thing that you think of or can do is buy a Popsicle for the surgeon!  No one in the states would even think to do it, nor would a doctor much appreciate it.  It my touched my heart.

One 13 year old’s father didn’t even want him to come; the boy only let his mom talk to us during screenings, and would keep his hand over his mouth after surgery was done. (palate) Before the surgery he was so nervous, I was trying to get him to talk to me, so I could calm any fears, I had my mp3 with me (English and Spanish songs), I asked him if he would like to listen to some and he nodded yes!  It really was the little things I tried to focus on.  God bless them, they fumbled through my Spanish with me!  ha-ha, but I would think it would be even scarier to not only go in for surgery with a condition you have been living with since birth, but by foreigners as well.

By the end of the week, when everyone had exchanged directions and Facebook pages, the nurses started to cry, which made me cry. They all wanted to know when and if our team would be returning soon. It was heartbreaking to not have any answer. I hope so.

I spent some time after hours with them too, going salsa dancing, karaoke (my first time ever, and it was out of the country!) and eating fresh crabs, etc.  They taught me a lot about the language and culture, and I tried to learn as fast as I could.  I will never forget this trip.  I think it is my favorite so far, and I wish to return in the future.


ONAAT’s third scholarship recipient, Laura W., RN, BSN,went on her first medical mission to with Healing the Children to La Troncal, Ecuador from March  12 through March 19th, 2011