Getting cleft lip and palate surgeries for so many children is one of my favorite things to do. I absolute love seeing their lips repaired. Often I can hardly recognize them when they come back from surgery. I have to admit the repaired cleft palate is not as dramatic a change but an important one none the less. The milk stops squirting out of their noses, but even more important is the fact that there is now a palate for the tongues to push against as they start to talk, which is why it is very important to get the palates done as soon as they turn one.
I am somewhat crazy in my desire to get the babies to the best doctors that I can and that means I travel across China to get the babies to the best care that I am capable of. This time we could not get airplane tickets for so many children, so we took the train. We traveled in a group of 15 kids and 19 adults. There were no sleepers hard or soft and we were forced to take the hard seats. I hated doing this, because I knew how difficult this would be. It is really hard to be on the train for the normal 22 hours it takes and let me tell you Chinese people know about hard beds and seats. It is extremely uncomfortable to sleep. Little did I know what would happen next: We were on the train for 52 hours! What a marathon train trip to go down in history and to be talked about for years. At one point at three in the morning I ran out of drinking water and there was none on the train, and that meant there was not enough milk for the children. We were low on milk powder and the toilets were backing up because there was no water for sanitation. It was really U-G-L-Y. The reason this happened was that an enormous amount of rain had fallen and caused a mudslide and floos. We stopped for 8 hours and then when we tried to go back, there was another mudslide behind us. The best thing that happened is that we got some beds and I sent the smallest babies to the beds and the caretakers got some sleep, which saved their sanity. The babies had done really badly in the seats and did not sleep well. I have never eaten so many instant noodles in my life. That is the most popular food in China.
We finally made it to Hangzhou and there Dr Lisa Buckmiller and her medical team were waiting for us at the Operation Smile Hospital. I am grateful that so many people got to work together for the good of the children. When things got really tough on the train all I kept thinking is that at the end there is such great help available for the kids. We had four children from the Yulin orphanage, six from the Luoyang Maria's House, three poor families and then eight babies from Starfish. One of the kids was not able to get surgery because of a liver condition and so we did 20 cleft lip and palates. Two of the children had surgery in Yulin.
I love the fact the our latest arrivals Angela and Kathryn got their lips repaired and that they looked so different. Angela was the most placid baby on the trip. Not only that, but she almost picked up a pound (.39kg) in the last week. That is so amazing for a baby that has just had lip surgery as they usually loose weight. She hardly cried where as Kathryn fussed for the both of them. Six other babies got their palates fixed (James, River, Joseph, Karl, Olivia and Aaron). Olivia wins the prize for Miss Congeniality, she charmed every one. Now we have three weeks of arm bands and boy is that a struggle for the older babies. They cannot put anything hard into their mouths and are eating soft food only. You are always worried about them falling and the lip or palate bursting open.
There are so many people to thank: Dr Lisa and her team ( Dr Robert Glade, Dr. Patti Kymer, Dr. Robert McLean, Ginnie England, Charlie Phol, Samuel Yu, Jessica Boswell, Matthew, Abby Nolder and Chris Robbins) My most grateful thanks to all the volunteers who went with the babies on this epic journey did not give up even though the going got really tough. We had Chinese, Dutch and Americans working together and taking care of the babies. Thank you to all the donors who were so generous so that babies could have their surgeries. Thanks you to Jeannie Butler and Annabelle's Wish for your contribution. You have all made a difference in the life of a child. God bless you all for your willingness to help these babies of ours.
Life, love and laughter,
Starfish Children's Services
US Tax Number: 20-4682916
At Starfish, we have taken care of 112 children to date, arranged more than 100 surgeries and had 36 international adoptions, so our little starfishes live all over the globe: the US, Netherlands, Norway, France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Canada and in China. Our latest took place recently and we now have baby in Virginia. We have also added baby another baby to our count in Holland. We currently have 47 babies under the age of 3 and three foster homes. We have fifteen babies matched and we are waiting for their families to come and get them.