July 14th – Some members of the team have begun rolling in to the Kunming Hotel. All total there will be 75 members on this mission. The number of volunteers and the organization it takes to complete a mission is staggering. The fact that Operation Smile can coordinate about 125 surgeries in just 7 days is a logistical feat. Even more impressive they can do it for just $240 per patient. Most of this mission’s team members will be Chinese. In fact, Dr. Anton is the only US surgeon on the mission. He says it’s humbling every time he is faced with a cleft lip surgery because technically they are one of the greatest challenges a surgeon faces. No other surgery, other than the nose, encompasses all the tissue planes including skin, fat, fascia, muscle, cartilage and bone.
In the morning we board a bus that takes us five-hours to Wenshan. Most tourists never travel to these parts of China. Even in Kunming, a moderate sized city with an active business and shopping district, Westerners are uncommon. So is the English language. Chinese is not one of those languages where you can find much common ground so everything from directions to ordering a glass of bottled water is a struggle with the language barrier.
Once we arrive in Wenshan, the work begins. Our mission coordinator informed us that the one team fun day would probably be reassigned as a surgery day due to the expected number of patients. Since today was the last free day before the work of the mission, we covered as much Kunming ground as possible. This city is full of surprises like this beautiful temple we found in the middle of a busy business and shopping district. It’s also full of other surprises like those electric Vespas that sneak up on you on the sidewalk!
More to follow from Wenshan. You can also follow the mission on Instagram @DrMarkAnton
– Dr. Anton
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