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Romania 2016 – Day 2

The second day of the mission began on a heartfelt note as two month old Karina Maria and her parents Bogdan and Roxana enter the clinic. Young Karina was born with a cleft pallet that local hospitals said could not be fixed until she was 10 months old. The team was confident that now was the opportunity to undergo the procedure as Karina would recover quicker at this age. Karina is the first born child of this couple of three years. They look to Doctor Hechler with worried hopeful eyes, concerned of surgery at such a young age. I could feel for the parents as I stood in the operating room. I had never witnessed surgery, so I felt unease with unknown expectations. How powerful this moment to come would be on this fragile life.




Contemplating this, I imagine the future of Karina Maria and the shift that was happening in front of me. It’s possible she may never meet the people who helped create this brighter future, which brought to mind what may motivate the members of the team. It is not with the expectation of anything in return or valiant recognition, indeed this patient was years away from even being able to mouth a thank you.


As the procedure begins, I must remind myself that this steady sound of an EKG is the pulsing of a tiny heart, perhaps no bigger that the pacifier next to her on the bench. I watch Ken Conde, my dad, with Karina in his hands as he delicately ventilates her by hand. Ken passes the ventilator to Erin Fuller with a precordial stethoscope, an earpiece that is focused over the heart and lungs to pick up on subtle, key changes. Any unease I felt had long melted away to fascination. Watching this freshly formed team work seamlessly is nothing short of enchanting. You watch them and see they are in their element, they work with fluid, natural clarity. The atmosphere is so at ease that during a brief respite, Ken Conde in his typical eccentric fashion begins a traditional dance to the song Beats of Botosani with the observers. Karina could not be in better hands as Aaron continues to pump fresh air into young lungs.




In post op, the parents graciously pick up a crying Karina with joyous eyes. The local media captures the timeless moment to share with the nation. The surgery had no complications and the parents shake Dr. Hechler’s hand with a heartfelt thank you. In the waiting room, they had a tense wait and were happy to see Vlad’s pictures of their daughter’s procedure. They had no words for the moment Karina was returned to their embrace.




Outside the children’s clinic a steady flow of hopeful patients from the countryside gather. The patients come dressed in a mosaic of many colors and cultures, even on this holy day of St. Ioan. The view is both familiar and wholly exotic, the clothes a mix of traditional styles and American brands. The people wait patiently in the summer weather chatting while the children create murals in the street with chalk. It’s surreal watching and seeing familiar sights sitting here on a priceless sunny day drinking lemonade on a break. I feel emotions of nostalgia for the country I left juxtaposed with the excitement that comes with immersion in a new culture in a distant land.




An aspect of the mission that was unanticipated was that I would become a patient myself. For years I have had a skin condition that American and Australian dermatologists have been unable to effectively and sustainably manage. In addition to the same recommendations that conventional specialists have offered Dr. Jaber and his colleague had holistic strategies. They would offer three treatment techniques consisting of a natural remedy, a plant based method, and a conventional regiment. The luxury of choice this diagnosis offered is one that had never been offered to me. Beyond that they discussed acupuncture and dietary amendments to try. They screened for causes that only a naturopath in my home country of Australia could offer. The blending of conventional and traditional medicine offered a more thorough management solution that elsewhere would only be possible from visiting multiple specialists.


The work day concluded with a TV interview of Laura Conde on Somax, the local TV station. Other TV and media representatives visited the clinic, further spreading the message of the Medical Missions Foundation.


The clinic wrapped up their day with more than 170 patients seen. 5 surgeries were completed by Dr. Hechler and his children’s hospital team, while Dr. Heddings and the team at the adult hospital saw 32 patients and performed 5 major orthopedic surgeries with their Romanian counterparts. Some volunteers worked at Deb’s House, the orphanage that we collaborate with and had a very good day as well with the kids. All in all, a very productive day for team Romania.


A very productive and tiring day 2 wraps up in the countryside home of one of our translators, Robert, who is also Laura Conde’s cousin. The barbecue and great hilltop views offered well needed respite, and, of course, local flavors and the customary spirit, Tuica (soyka).





The amazing photos from the Romania Mission are provided by Vlad Catana. You can follow his work at www.facebook.com/VladCatanaPh


Click on an image for larger gallery view.