Better late than never....

Where to even start...let me start with an apology. Life in Ecuador has become my norm, I no longer find things as amazing and exciting as I used to which causes me to lack things to write about but I know that you all are missing out on what is going on. I will not make any promises but I will try to write more often...

I am currently in the states working, I was given to opportunity to work at DC Children's. It is close to home and close to my new nephew! Ive been getting to spend time with him and  my sister as often as possible! I am also working at Anne Arundel attempting to make as much money as possible in as short of a time. 

I'm sure that I could write for hours and still not fill you in on all that has gone on since I last wrote but I will do my best and attempt to not bore you.  Things that might be of interest: I contributed to a global health nursing book that was compiled by a UNC Chapel Hill nursing professor that will be released in May! This came about after having two nursing students who came down to volunteer for two weeks doing education and giving basic nursing care. 

I am now part of the Ecuadorian team for Operation Smile! I work in the recovery room and occasionally in the OR during the approximate 100 surgeries that we perform every 3 months across Ecuador. This has given me the awesome opportunity to not only work with amazing surgeons, nurses, doctors, and volunteers from all over the world but to also meet amazing grateful families. These people are the most thankful that you can imagine. 

Sarah and Natalie came to volunteer! They worked in the gardens and cooked for the elderly. They fed me so well that I was sad to see them leave...it was so nice to eat so many fresh vegetable and have such amazing company!

We fixed Pablo's lip! You will see that I posted some new pictures, Pablo Emelio is the baby that was born with cleft lip. I have been able to spend a lot of time with the family since his surgery, they have blessed me daily.  They are a very poor family, the parents both work "daily" jobs making around $5 per day. There are 6 kids at home, they have very little food, live in one room but love each other and life. They are an amazing example of what I hope to be. Pablo was the very first baby born in the community of Paragachi with cleft lip, now he has a perfect lip that was fixed by the surgeons of Operation Smile! 

Jessica came, we traveled through the jungle, took a canoe with a native man to see how they live within the jungle. We watched them make pottery, pan for gold, make chicha, how they catch animals, native dance, and ate fresh caught fish cooked in a leaf. We zip lined, hiked, she jumped from a bridge, went to the zoo, walked behind waterfalls, slept on the edge of the river, and traveled over 10,000 ft of altitude. Jess go to give the kids Christmas in the community of Paragachi and love on my kids!

Sarah came to work with Operation Smile!!! Finally! She got to assist us in our surgeries in Quito and then she got to meet my kids and see the community of Paragachi. We visited the communities above Pimampiro and we served the elderly their afternoon meal. 

I am working very closely with the President of the community of Paragachi to give the people the resources that are available to them and if the resources are not available creating a way to make them successful. I believe that the future of the community is in the children and I believe that I can help to educate the children to not only better their community but their country. 

I cannot tell you how grateful that I am to have been given the opportunity to meet so many of you and have each one you bless my life each in your own way. I thank you all for your continued support and I ask you to keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I will be returning to Ecuador in a few weeks. Love to all....

Home Sweet Home

I have now arrived home, how relaxing...how nice to be with family and just relax. This will be short-lived since I start working on Monday but at least I had a few days to relax.

In Ecuador I left lots of things undone, luckily there is a volunteer there taking my place! She is an awesome person, speaks Spanish, and is super helpful. The people have said they are just going to change her name to mine for the next few months, haha! 

We are working with Pamela, the little girl with the tumor on her face...we are waiting for 2 more kids who have similar cases. They have decided to inject something called OK 432, which has proven to reduce the size or shrink considerably the mass.  But, in the childrens hospital in Quito there must be 6 children who need this treatment for it to be ordered from Japan, so we are in this waiting process.  But, it is looking like in the next week or two she will get the injection! And we are hoping for significant results!!

The little boy who needs  a circumcision; we are waiting for an appointment with the urologist, after that he will (hopefully) get an appointment to have the surgery. Since healthcare is free in Ecuador things are much more complicated and the waiting game is nothing short of stressful!

My little Priscila...I have the milk man (literally there is a man that delivers fresh cow milk) delivering milk every day and supposedly she is drinking a liter a day with her formula that has extra calories. We shall see if she gains weight this time, if not we will have to talk to social services in Ecuador to most likely remove her from the home due to negligence. She still severely malnourished and the mom is lying about the amount of food that she is eating and the formula that she is drinking, if she does not gain weight when she goes to the doctor in 2 weeks we will have to do something different. The mother has been given all of the resources and we are helping her in every way possible, Priscila should be gaining weight!

I was made aware of a new case, a man who fell from a tree...he is now paraplegic. His family works to provide him with the catheters, diapers, special creams, etc that he needs but they are unable to make enough money to care for him. Also, the doctor informed me that he is beginning to have small amounts of feeling in his hands and feet, which means that he may benefit from physical therapy with the possibility of walking again! Or at least with having some sort of mobility! I am in search first and foremost of government programs to help this man and his family and then I will be looking to each one of you to help me to help this man! 

I am currently putting together a team of people, from the community, to help me help the community. This will consist of the president of the community (who is very interested in the welfare of his people and making change), a psychologist, and people to help organize events.  We will focus on the young people and children, we will start by evaluating each and every family and starting with their needs. It has been very aware to me recently that there is quite a bit of abuse in the community, and I hope that address it soon. 

Speaking of abuse, a little boy named David said to me the day that I was leaving, “Jana, can I go with you?”. I immediately told him that I was leaving for the states and that he would be alone in my house in Ecuador if he went home with me. His response, “not here, I want to go to the states with you”. Then I asked why and very frankly he said, “ my mom beats me and leaves me alone all day”. One of the teachers from the school was there and she says that he comes to school most days with marks from rope, wire, or belts across his face and back. How much I just wanted to take him away from all of that! As I left I told him to ask his mom if he could go with me...so we will see when I get back what she said. 

Please consider donating to my foundation, so that I can better help these children and families!! We are in a place where the people trust me and I can make a difference! Please please please help me!!

I will try to update the blog while I am here in the states with the information that Miriam gives me, or maybe Ill let her blog! 

Operation Smile

I will never forget the faces of: a little girl with a tumor...a tumor for a face, a man burned from head to toe, and my little boy (from my community) who got his cleft lip fixed this time! Also a man with Down Syndrome who had a growth growing on the back of his head that we removed with local anesthesia, the mother said that he would not tolerate knowing what we were doing without him being asleep but in the end he was a trooper!

Every time that I work with Operation Smile it is an awesome experience! Every time I meet new people and have new experiences and we fix more lips and palettes! 

This little girl with the tumor on her face was born “normal”, when she reached 3 months of age she started getting spots that look something like birth marks, then these birth marks turn into tumors. These tumors turn into masses, these masses then take over and this particular tumor has settled in her head/face. She is severely deformed, so much that her parents left her. Thankfully she now lives in a foundation home and is well taken care of, but that does not take away the severity of her condition. We removed a large part of the tumor but it continues to grow.

A man who was working and something exploded, this explosion left him missing parts of fingers and burned from head to toe. We released some of his scar tissue, to hopefully relieve some of his pain.

My little boy, a 6 month old who was born with cleft lip had surgery to fix his lip this mission! I first took him to Quito a few months ago, but because he had a cough and runny nose we could not do the surgery, but this time he was healthy! I dropped the family off at the bus terminal to travel 12 hours to Guayaquil, i packed them sandwiches and snacks to sustain them the whole night in the bus. They arrived early morning at the hospital and were evaluated and put on the schedule!! He came out of surgery with a lip, a lip that you can barely tell was every separated!! I handed him over to his mother shortly after surgery and she looked at me and said, “what do I do with him now”...haha! Feed him, I said...and she looked at me and said “what do i feed him”! Haha! After the initial shock she was super happy and thankful and ready to go home! Look at how great he looks!! Dont mind the snotty nose!

Operation Smile is an amazing organization and we do amazing things! In Ecuador alone we “fix” about 100 children every 2-3 months. That is somewhere around 400 kids a year in Ecuador alone!

 

4/16

Little Priscila is crawling!! She has been drinking her hi-calorie formula and her mom has been doing the exercises that the doctor recommended and she is growing!! We go to the doctor tomorrow to see if she has gained any weight and to pick up more formula! It is amazing how the moms attitude has changed and how with just some attention and the proper nutrition Priscila is obviously becoming better! 

Last week was a crazy week...as it always is when it gets down to the last few weeks that I am here. I was made aware of a 10 year old child who was unable to pee, or so the mom said in the midst of her almost tears. Her son had had an infection and didnt tell anyone, he said for almost a month it hurt to pee and his penis was red and swollen, but being 10 he didnt want to tell his mom. Due to this infection the foreskin started healing and now he literally has to force his urine out of a almost non-existent hole. We are waiting for his appointment with Urology and then he will be circumcised.

I also traveled to Quito last week to take a little girl, 10 years old, who has a heart murmur to the Cardiologist. She was diagnosed more than 4 years ago but because her parents work daily jobs and do not have much money they were unable to take her to the doctor before. The medical director here made me aware of her case and i searched for a cardiologist who would be willing to do an echo for a discounted price. I found one and we made an appointment and we went to see him. We left on the 4am bus and arrived before the doctor. He evaluated the little girl and in the end her murmur is not dangerous! The mother was super happy and thankful...as was I! The day after we went to the doctor was her birthday, so we had breakfast together and bought her a ballon and teddy bear! This mother was so humble, she tried to pay for everything...she tried to give me money for breakfast and to pay the doctor but the truth is that she makes at most $7 a day. I explained to her that I have people in the US that donate money to my foundation for people just like her and her daughter...and she told me to be sure that I thanked all of you for her! So grateful and so awesome that her daughter is fine!

A few kids in Paragachi have been identified as needed psychological help, a few are being abused in the home and others are acting out in school. Therefore, I talked to a psychologist yesterday who is going to work with me! He is from the community and he is willing to work with me to help these kids! It will be a slow start since he does not have another job and I will be trying to raise money to pay him, but the best part is that he WANTS to help his community! AND he has a degree and experience in psychology!! This week we will talk more and work out more details but this is a great start to addressing MANY situations going on in Paragachi.

While waiting to see the doctor with the child who could not urinate, a little girl came into the clinic with a “tumor” on the side of her face/head. It is probably the size of a baseball on the left side, temple area. The mother told me that she is waiting to hear from a doctor at the childrens hospital in Quito to let her know when they will operate on her daughter. But...it will cost her over $2000 to have the surgery. $2000 is a number out of reach for this mother and her family, therefore I offered to consult with the plastic surgeons of Operation Smile to see if there was something that we could do. The answer is no...because it is more than something that a plastic surgeon can do, she is missing part of the boney structure of the head. Therefore, I will begin my search of who can help me help her. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers, she is totally “normal” as of now but this “tumor” is growing and it is growing rapidly. The mother said that she was born with it but very small, she is now 6 months old and it is baseball size. We need to take care of this and we need to take care of it soon. Pray for the resources please. 

I will go to Guayaquil next week to work with Operation Smile again!! I am excited to see the team and to “fix” about 100 smiles!! 

Thank you all again for your love and support, please keep these kids in your thoughts and prayers and I will be home in no time!!!

3/26

You can do anything...when there is no one else to do it! 

So, little Priscila is still in the hospital, her parents are not very happy about and Im a little worried that they may try to leave with her. But, hopefully the hospital wont allow that to happen. We are waiting for the genetic testing results, tomorrow should be the day that we know exactly what is wrong with her and where we go from here.

The attitude of the mother has finally changed, in the beginning she was very indifferent about her child and about what we were doing or not doing. Yesterday for the first time she actually spoke up and said that this was the last blood sample that would be taken from her child and that she needs to get home to her other children. But, she does not interact with her daughter, she does not talk to her or play with her...at least I have never seen her stimulate little miss Priscila. Hopefully this will change...

The hospital here is very “third world”, for lack of better words, you must have someone do everything for you. The hospital does not provide food, bathroom supplies, diapers, etc. Someone must bring you food every day and deliver your specimens to the proper lab and pick up the results. It is something very strange and very hard for me to get used to. Because of this I have been driving an hour every day to take the mother food and to check on this child and to talk to the doctors and nurses. If I don’t talk to the staff at the hospital then they don’t even go in to see the little girl, they work because I am pressuring them to find out what is wrong with her. 

For example, yesterday we went to visit her and to do the genetic testing. Cost somewhere around $200, so first we had to search for someone who would be willing to pay that...fortunately the Queen of Pimampiro has $2000 to do “charity work” and so she agreed to help us. So this is how yesterday went: first i drove an hour to the city where the hospital is, then i went to one “lab” where they told me that they were unable to do all of the tests, then to The Red Cross where the Queen paid $200 and we were given one 10ml tube to put the specimen (blood) in, then to the hospital to where the child is to draw the blood, the doctor and nurse said it was too much blood and they were ‘afraid’ to stick her.  I volunteered and stuck her in the femoral artery because her veins are so small and fragile and yes 10ml’s is a lot of blood for a child of 5 pounds. After getting the blood I hand delivered it back to The Red Cross where now we are waiting until Wednesday to get the results. Once we have the results we will come up with a very strict nutrition program for her to increase her weight, as long as there is nothing else wrong with her that would contraindicate a high calorie diet. 

This is taking up most of my time right now, but hopefully tomorrow we will be able to bring her home and begin the long road to growing and thriving. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers since the parents have not been super helpful, pray that their attitudes change and they see that we are trying to help their daughter. In the end we hope to help the family in other ways as well, as far as jobs for the parents (since right now they are working daily jobs making $6 a day), and whatever other ways that we can. 

Happy Easter to everyone, Easter is always a good time to be here...on Friday we had the traditional “cambeo” where there is no money involved only goods are exchanged. PImampiro is one of the only towns left in the world that still does this! People come from all over Ecuador and Colombia to participate in this tradition! Then this week they make fanesca, which is a traditional soup that is only made at Easter, made with 10 grains and salty fish, eggs, bread balls, and squash. Its good, but super filling! 

Check out the new website!

www.amongthestars.org

or if you’d rather see it in Spanish,

www.entrelasestrellas.org

!!!  Thank so much to Drew McKechnie for doing this for me!!!