Friday, March 8, 2013

MACLA Medical Mission Part 5

I had never seen a cleft palate before. It looked like someone had taken a knife, cut down the middle of his uvula, and continued another half-inch into the soft tissue attaching it to the roof of his mouth. The surgery is basically the opposite of the finger separation. The outermost layer of tissue along the cleft is removed and then the two sides are sewn together. I watched as Matt deftly hooked a tiny needle through the pink tissue and tied a suture that looked like fishing line. My job was to cut the needle from the suture and cut off the excess line while using a little suction device to clear the area of saliva and blood so he could see what he was doing. Before we were done there must have been about a dozen sutures.

Dana, Ashley, Norma

When the surgery was finished, the Dominican doctor assisting the surgery began reversing the general anesthetic. Little by little, the patient came awake and finally began to gag on his breathing tube, a normal reaction. Unlike some of the others, he didn’t jerk much when we lifted him from the operating table to the gurney that would take him to recovery. Later we got this one patient, a teenaged girl who would have been flailing and kicking while she came out of anesthesia if we didn’t have me, a nurse, the surgeon and a couple of orderlies holding her down. I’m told this is just what happens with some patients. Wow.

Alyson, Dana, Jose, Norma, Dustin, Ashley, me, Paul

The last day was short. It was just a morning for patients from earlier in the week to come get their dressings changed and get medication and advice. At the end of the day, when the surgeons, doctors, nurses, and therapists began to trickle out, I couldn’t help feeling a pang of heartache at the realization that it was over and though I could keep in touch, we would never be assembled like this again. Over the course of the week I had really come to like these visitors from the US and however little the time we’d spent together, I’ll be damned if it didn’t hurt to see them go.


  1. These are really great posts Charlie!

  2. Dear Charlie,

    My name is Joe Pinzone and I'm casting an international travel show about expats moving abroad. We'd love to film in the Dominican Republic and wanted to know if you could help us find expats who have moved there within the last 15 months or have been there for 3-4 years, but recently moved into a new home. The show documents their move to a new country and will place the country in fabulous light. The contributors on the show would also receive monetary compensation if they are filmed. If you'd like more information, please give me a call at 212-231-7716 or skype me at joefromnyc. You can also email me at Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Joe Pinzone
    Casting Producer
    P: 212-231-7716
    Skype: Joefromnyc