Another morning, another breakfast, another bus ride to the clinic, however, instead of our usual bus, we had a much more entertaining situation. The previous night, our normal bus driver wasn’t there, so someone else drove us to the hotel. The problem was, the bus we were taking was significantly smaller than what we needed. While it fit 12, we had to fit a grand total of 16 (including our driver). So, we piled in, got very close to each other, cracked a few clown car jokes, and made our way to the hospital to begin a multitude of surgeries and return to the penalty box, aka clinic.
We arrived (we still had a few packed bags needing to be unpacked), and quickly went to work. While most of us prepped the two ORs we were going to use, Dr. Villarreal, Dr. Kisinde, and Sydnie made their way down to the ward to check on the previous day’s patient, who was doing well. After a quick peek of his incision, change of his dressing, and seeing him doing well, they quickly returned to the rest of us, where we were close to completing the final touches on the ORs for the surgeries.
There was a lot of bustling around as patients were being brought in and put to sleep, x-rays were being put up and looked at, table were being prepped and steriley covered with tools placed on top, and people were beginning to scrub in. But, even through all this chaos, there was a method to the madness. People knew where to go and what to do without being asked, everyone knew what to grab, and what cases were about to happen. In the first room, we had a patient by the name of Jecinta who returned to us with two broken rods, so the plan was to exchange the broken rods. The second room had a 52 year young man named Edward who required a simple (nothing in spine Surgery is simple) 1 level fusion of his cervical (neck) vertebrae at C4 to C5.
Surgeries started, and Dr. Lieberman, Dr. Kisinde, and I headed down to resume clinic from the previous day, where countless patients were still waiting from the day before. Shocked, we quickly entered the exam room, prepared ourselves, and started seeing patients. Dr. Lieberman would talk and examine them, Dr. Kisinde would translate and also examine them, and I would record the patient’s history and diagnosis. Of course, seeing each patient and listening to them takes time, so after the first 10 patients, Dr. Lieberman made the executive decision to see a total of 50 for the day before he heads to surgery, and more would be seen during the second week of the mission. Charts were collected, and patients continued to come in one by one; low back pain, neck pain, pain or numbness radiating into the hands and/or feet. You name it when it comes to back problems, we probably saw it.
After a few breaks for our stomachs and mother nature, and the help of Dr. Hisey after his first surgery was completed, we finished seeing 58 patients, and made our way to the OR, where cases 3 and 4 were beginning to get ready. Case 3 a young girl named Clency who required a large instrumentation and fusion in her back, while case 4 was another young girl named Prima who was had a mass removed from her back. Once again, the ORs and the doctor’s room we were inhabiting started bustling with activity as we moved to prepare the next two cases; imaging, cleaning, equipment and supplies needed, people ready.
Once the cases began, and those of us not directly involved in the surgeries took a short break to grab a snack, or (a crowd favorite here) sit down. While all the cases were in progress, including cases 1 and 2, Sherron and Sydnie were continuing to unpack and organize a room, so when clinic was over and those of us there returned, Sydnie proudly told us that the task Sherron had given her was “complete”, and she went to watch the surgeries.
Both cases progressed smoothly and came to an end close to 7:00 PM, so we did our fantastic clown car routine, piled into the small van, and headed back to the hotel, where we ate dinner and laughed at different stories and Jason. He hypothesized that if he drinks a little bit of vodka every night, it will kill all the bacteria in his stomach and he won’t get sick from anything, and then took a drink. Needless to say, everyone became invested in his hypothesis, and we are all awaiting the results from his experiment. Then came the lessons of the day. As per usual, everyone shared what they learned, when we got to Sherron, who looked at us, chuckled, and said, “What I learned is the terminology for “complete” for millennials is different than older generations.” By this point, we all knew that Sydnie had completed the room in her eyes, but not in Sherron’s, and started cracking up.
The rest of the evening was uneventful; a few of us parted ways, exhausted from the day’s work and ready for bed, while the rest continued to test Jason’s hypothesis and enjoy each other’s company. Little did we know what Wednesday would have in store for us.