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Armenia Day 3

Hrachik Hambardzumyan

I just want to thank our entire team for working so hard on our first two days at St. Grigor’s hospital;  we finished another 12-hour workday.

All smiles.

Where do I begin…well, let me start by saying that every single Plasticos trip is unique, as every country and every hospital we visit is different, with different customs and protocols. The Plasticos team understands and respects this, so we come into every trip with the mindset that things constantly change and therefore, we must learn to adapt and think critically and creatively to solve problems.

Children fromt the Gyumri Orphange that we saw last year during our site visit.

In addition to completing six surgeries, the hospital had arranged for us to screen more children. We typically do the majority of our screening on the first day, and then work from the list of approved candidates to create a schedule for the rest of the week, but we were open to trying something different. The challenge was finding a way for the children to be seen by the doctor, the anesthesiologist and the pediatrician when the 2/3 of the PreOp panel had surgery scheduled for the entire day. We were able to make it work.  The doctors shuffled back and forth between the OR and the clinic area throughout the day.

Screening. Monica helps translate in between surgery cases.

We screened many children in critical need of surgery, and one of the hardest stories to hear was Alvina Avetisyan’s, a 22-year-old whose face, chest and stomach were burned by a hot oil spillage when she was just 4 years old. As she grew, the skin tightened, resulting in mask-like scar covering her entire face. It is difficult to see how she is really feeling because her facial mobility is very limited.  The only expression she has is sadness because her eyelids are pulled down at the outer corners.

Alvina Avetisyan, burned at age 4 by hot oil.

Alvina is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. The doctor will be performing (and teaching) a lower eyelid ptosis, vertical lift, and canthopexy.  Hopefully, she will be able to look in the mirror and feel like she has reclaimed her life.

Nver Grigoryan

I’ll never forget what happened when I came into the recovery room and Brenda (recovery nurse) was taking care of Nver Grigorian, a 2-year-old who had just come out of cleft lip surgery.  He was emotionally and physically scared and upset – more than any other child who had surgery. He cried, kicked and flung his arms around and used all the strength in his little body to try to force himself out of the hospital bed. I think his survival instincts kicked in when he woke up from anesthesia and saw strange people wearing strange gowns in a strange place.    He just wanted to get out of there.  We were afraid that he would scratch his cleft lip and it would burst open again. Brenda and I tried holding his arms down to keep his hands from his face, but he would not give up. He turned his head back and forth, kicked and tried to free his arms. I tried to calm him down and tell him that everything was going to be okay, but he did not understand what I said.  And even if he did, I doubt that he would have felt any better. I asked Monica (recovery nurse) if we would be able to bring his mom into the room to calm him down, and she said something so simple but left a deep resounding pang in my heart: “He’s an orphan.”  With no one to feel safe and secure with he must have felt like he was fighting for his life alone.

Nver is one of the children that we will be operating on from Gyumri Orphanage – the same orphanage, which we had visited last year. Oftentimes, orphans were taken from their own homes because the government deems their parents unfit to raise children with deformities. These children grow up not getting much social interaction and are rarely held. We hope that by fixing whatever deformity they have, they would be able to be reunited with their families.

Drs. Sharma & Kalfayan, Susi, Ruth Ann and Monica gather in the recovery room with our last patient of the day.

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