Sunday, August 16, 2009

I'm ALIVe!!!!

I apologize forthe gigantic delay in writing a post! Yes, I am alive and yes i have so so much to write about but the internet is not available for much longer so I will have to postpone a real post until tomorrow, which is surgery day 1.

To say being here on such for such a great mission is amazing would be an understatement. The Kenyans are incredible people, welcoming you with hugs and lots of questions. I promise a loooong post tomorrow night (pending intetnet of course... I cant wait to post pictures when I get back!

Thanks for your patience!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bon Voyage!

$? check
tickets? check
all the food I can safely eat without getting sick and/or starving to death? check
every medication on the planet? Check

The car in loaded and I am waiting patiently for my itunes to figure itself out so that I can listen to the "African mix" while watching Zac Efron in 18 Again. What? 18 hours on a plane is a very long time- I need some entertainment. Oh- I also brought Uno with me for the unknowing victim sitting next to me that is about to lose ALOT in Redsox UNO, they just dont know it yet:)

My mom is driving from Vermont to take me to the airport that is 10 minutes from my house. She is the best and I am comforted by this more than I anticipated I would be. 5 hours to London, 8 hours to Kenya- no sleep and I am filled with excitement!

Will keep everyone posted over the next two weeks:)

With Love, Dena

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Africa or Bust!

Good Morning!

Day before I embark on what will most likely be one of the biggest adventures I have ever been privileged to be a part of- Operation Smile, Kenya. For those who have not heard of Operation Smile, it is a non-profit organization that performs free facial reconstruction surgery for children born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate. Cleft lip and palate is a result of a malformation of a fetus' facial bones while in utero. Around the world 200,000 children are born each year with the cleft lip or cleft palate- most of which are statistically higher in third world countries. The result of the deformity remaining untreated can be life threatening and emotionally traumatizing. Most are unable to eat or drink and depending on the social stigma associated with cleft lip/palate in that particular country and culture, the child is kept out of school.

Over the last 26 years Operation Smile volunteers has reached out to 51 countries and performed over 120,000 surgeries for children and young adults. In 2007-2008 alone, 10,868 children and young adults were treated. In this particular mission, 49 volunteer/strangers from around the world have been selected to be part of the medical team traveling to Nairobi, Kenya. The team consists of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, pediatricians, orthodontists, dentists, nurses, speech therapists, medical records personnel, biomedical technicians, patient imaging technicians, medical students, student, program manages, mission coordinators, and me- the child life specialist. My main role will be to minimize the stress, anxiety, and psychological trauma associated with surgery and hospitalization. I will do this mainly through medical play and preparation. Though I do not speak the language, play and pictures are universal and cross cultural, enabling me to communicate with these children what to expect prior and post surgery (I will also have a translator in case:) )
Thanks to the generosity of Newton-Wellesley Hospital and National Life of Vermont, I will be taking 3 very large suitcases. Now, those who know me may assume that one suitcase filled with my clothes and shoes. Well, I will have you know that I have managed to fit ALL of my clothes for the entire 2 weeks into a single hiking backpack. Yes, it's true mom and dad, please pick up your jaws from the floor. Instead, these suitcases they filled toys, arts and crafts, and medical supplies for children of all ages.
Because I won't have Internet access right away, here is a link to a You Tube video that shows what the mission is all about. Get your tissues ready!

I do not know if I will have the capacity to download my pictures while I am in Kenya, however, I will do so upon my return on the 24th. I will try to do a daily blog, but it will depend on Internet access at the hotel and the schedule of each day's events. Thank you for coming on this journey with me! Please feel free to leave a message and check on the links below!

Hakuna Matata and lots of love!