Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day 7: Happiest Guy in the Operating Room

Pre-surgical x-ray.
Near the end of our second day of screening, we met a young man with lower-extremity deformities on both legs, crutches that seemed to have turbo boosters on them, and the most positive energy anywhere.

His legs were short and his toes pointed down and inward, forcing him to walk on the outside edges of his feet. His feet and ankles could not flex to 90 degrees. When we gathered his information, he said he could walk independently for a short distance, but had little stability and it was very painful.

One of our translators related to us that he's a very accomplished competitive swimmer. If flying down streets and hallways on crutches was a competitive sport, he'd be a medalist.

Normal resting position of the patient's foot, pre-surgery.
He knows a few key greetings in English and used them as often as possible with each of us. After answering his question of "how are you?" and asking him the same, he'd respond by telling you he'd see you tomorrow -- with the most fantastic smile.

Everything we've seen in the course of the mission so far has given us perspective on our own lives and the environments in which we live and work. This particular patient and his amazing positive energy provides another degree of perspective entirely.

On our fifth day of surgery, the doctors performed his surgeries. In non-medical terms, I'd have to call it "bi-lateral everything" -- tendon lengthening, joint fusion, etc. He greeted us in the operating room with his trademark energy, despite the fact he was about to have surgery that could very well change many things for him.

Post-surgical grin.
Drs Spanko, Koshimune, and Sellers went through the procedures. Once casting was complete, we lowered the drape so that he could sit up slightly and see his feet. He was so excited to see his toes pointing toward the ceiling instead of the opposite wall.

When we saw him again, he was in the recovery area. Or near it, anyway. The hospital was so busy on Wednesday that some of our patients were in the outdoor hallway resting and waiting to be moved to their rooms on the fifth floor orthopedic ward. It didn't seem to bother him (or the others) at all. He waited while we worked with our translator to relay medication instructions to the patients. When it was his turn, he asked a couple of questions, assured us he was not in pain, thanked us, and kept smiling. This is a guy who just had surgery on both feet, including pins to hold the joints in place while the bones fuse -- not trivial stuff.

We saw him again on our rounds to visit recovering patients later Wednesday and again on Thursday. His energy was equally positive and he greeted us each individually. I never saw his energy or positive enthusiasm wane. I hope it bodes well for his recovery and adjustment after the surgery. I have many memories of the patients and our time in Can Tho, but know that his energy will remain with me for a long time to come.

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