Monday, March 08, 2010

Jordan Continues Day 3-5

The good part of being up at 3 am, with jet lag, is I can use the time to work on the huge task of writing all about my trip. I wish I couldn've done it as I went along but, I was already getting about 5 hrs of sleep a night so keeping up the blog became non-essential. To see a bunch of pictures from my trip you can go here. I can also tell you there are pictures of me on hundreds of phones all over Jordan. People were constantly taking pictures of us, pretty funny.

So Jordan=rain. Well at least while we were there. It rained I think 75% of the time. Which they tried to tell us was unusual and that really the amount of rain we had while we were there was more than in 15 yrs. But it was good to see the sun when it came out. They also have amazing instant fog there! You'd look out you window and in 2 minutes the densest fog would set in.

Day 2 continued- We had dinner at vinagrette-- the resteraunt at the Al Qasar where we stayed. (Can I just say I do love the Al Qasar- the nicest of any hotel I have ever stayed in on a mission- I am afraid I will go soft after staying there... satellite TV, comfortable clean beds, endless hot water, really nothing but love and kisses for the Al-Qasar and staff-- and even the intersting security procedure entering the hotel!) It has a gorgeous view of Amman. I love city lights at night. I must say two thumbs up for the chicken and mushroom crepes as well as the creme brulee. Also I have give a special shout out to the bartender at Viniagrette who at breakfast every morning would make me the best hot chocolate with frothy milk (although he couldn't understand why we liked to drink it in the morning-crazy americans). By the end of the trip he brought it to my table at 5:45am without even asking!)

Day 3 (day 2 of screening) started early. We screened 208 patients (well that is how many went through pre-screening). Again each of those with about 3-4 other people- so lots of people in a small space! However this day it was a more steady flow so it felt a little less chaotic. We screened Palestinian patients who had made the trip over the border to come and were staying at a nearby hotel as well as more Jordanian patients. One of the great tasks of screening is to be sure the toys don't walk away. I did pretty good except for a few puppets that walked away as well as pieces of large foam puzzles. Not quite sure why you'd want a large foam puzzle piece or what you'd do with it but none the less the fish and sesame street puzzles both lost pieces. Again much more coloring, chain making, bubble blowing, ball playing, parachute, throw me a bone, jenga, and puzzles for the cast of thousands. 

I also sorted all the child life boxes that got shipped with cargo- separating out cloth dolls, stuffed animals and the random toys that get mixed in. I have to say there were a few unusal items in the boxes- like scantily clad barbies (which we quickly put away as they would have been highly culturally insensitive. Also these very bizarre ronald macdonald makeup kits for children which included ketchup like packets of flourescent orange hair dye- which was I am sure exactly what the anesthesia team would've loved for me to use on the kids pre-op.)

We had a big team dinner that night at Jafra. It was a cool old building. I of course got the coolest seat at a fish table. Yes it was this giant round vat with fish swimming in it with a plexiglass top. We had the most delicious dinner- course after course after course, after course really --Like over 14-15 different dishes and drinks. Also Jordan has great drinks- their fresh juices are fabulous- especially fresh lemon with mint- yes it's green and doesn't look like anything we drink but it is delicious- it's like a subtle mint flavor followed by the best fresh lemonade- a must have and something I will definitely have to try making at home this summer! Also they have sodas named "Linda" and "fizzy wizzy"  as well as black currant fanta. Jafra served the best after dinner hot cholate which felt like you were drinking a belgian choclate bar. Food is served family style and I love the communal atmonspeher of the meals. There was a musican so much singing by our Jordanian team and our first introduction to the infamous OSJ chant "Operation (clap clap clap) Smile, Operation(clap clap clap) gives you a smile" only fully appreciated with and arabic accent.

Day 4- Day 1 of Surgery- We were running 5 tables, 4 general and one local. My playroom was set up right outside the OR. The space is kind of small and there was water that dripped down from the ceiling in the middle of the room so you had to be careful where you sat. Also the lights didn't work until the last day-so you can imagine my surprise and excitement when they turned on the last day.  One day I was playing basketball in the dark with one of the kids and wishing for flashlights or glowsticks.

I have to say I had the best translators and helpers ever on a mission!!  Operation Smile Jordan is well established in country and really it made my job so much easier. My poor translators though- get so used to translating the pre op teaching speal. I am sure they can all, in their sleep, demonstrate with my teaching puppet all about the masks, the ivs, tongue stitches (for cleft palate cases) and even rectal tylenol.

During surgery week, my day is spent prepping all the kids and playing with them until the last case goes on the table, then I clean up the playroom, pack everything up for the supply closet and then go check on the day's patients post op and check on the newly arriving patients for the next days surgeries.

Really I have the best job on the team because I get to get to know every single patient. Especially on a relatively intimate mission like this one where we did only did 104 cases. I play and talk with them for hours during screening. I talk to each one of them and their parents before surgery. And they get so excited to see me after surgery because I am the fun one. I am the one constant person through the entire experience.  While I also have the dirtiest job (crawling around on dirty hospital floors amid markers, playdough, and toys), the most chaotic (me+prescreening area =800 people) and the most schlepping (try packing an entire playroom for this many kids 6 mo to adolescents in 50 lbs.)  but it's also the most personal.

Amanda, Lisa and Taylor and I went across the street to a chinese resteraunt for dinner because it was getting late and it was recommended on a list in our hotel room and said there was a discount for operation smile. The meal proved to be quite comical, there was the part where they were dustbustering the table, a bad lost in translation experience involving my name badge being taken back into the kitchen where the entire staff discussed for 10 minutes, then taylors name badge, and dicussion of an all you can eat 15Jd offer (not the offer we were talking about) and ending with a round of complimentary chinese tea, which was quite funny becasue it was the exact same tea they had given out earlier. Peking certianly goes down on the list of memorable dinners.

Day 5 -- day 2 of surgery
The hotel was about a 35 minute bus ride back to the hotel. They would leave in 4 different shifts, as people finished. This is little tricky though because everyone isn't back all together. I got back to the hotel and planned to go out to eat, but I worried people were alone in their rooms with no where to go but upstairs. And as the child life specialist, the psychosocial and emotional needs are my responsiblity I decided that applied to the rest of the team as well as the patients so I embraced my role as the love boat social director and asked the front desk for a room list of all the op smile team and went door knocking inviting everyone who was back to go out with me. You know how I like a party! We rallied a nice group and Omar, who is originally form Jordan agreed to be our guide. So we walked a little ways from the hotel to a resteraunt. Where we had the best fruit smoothies, fruit salads, lebanese fajita wraps. So I decided I wanted ice cream, and the only offering was in 1 kilo. I asked if this indeed was 2.2 pouds of ice cream and omar assured me it was. So I decided to order it because when else do you order it by the kilo? Well the waiter then said just for me he'd give me an extra half a kilo- not sure what I did to merit such generosity and so he said he'd bring me every flavor they had. So he arrives mith my 3.3 pounds of ice cream and we all dug in attempting to identify all the flavors of Jordan. which ranged from cantaloupe (that took some sleuthing) to arabic, to galaxy, to blueberry cheesecake, and many others. It was a night of many laughs (thanks also to the movie The Core which was showing on Dubai one channel before we left)  and it earned me the nickname Mrs Ice Cream from Ammar one of the Post/op nurses as word of my ice cream excursion became legendary. 
The rest of the week to follow- as I am sure i'll be up early again tomorrow night!


rosedatocdall said...

That is so cool, Leslie. Love the icecream lady part. Thanks for letting us into your world, taking us on your journey! I am sure we only barely can catch a glimpse of what you experienced. You are right, you did have the best job, getting to know those children! You are amazing!


Sheree said...

What a neat experience! Sounds like a lot of very rewarding work. And the ice cream and food sounds delicious--although I don't think canteloupe would be one of my top picks.