Operation Smile: Bringing Happiness Worldwide

Operation Smile: Bringing Happiness Worldwide

For Sally Herman, RN, nursing was a calling. Having been born with a crossed-eye that required a number of surgeries at different hospitals in a few states, Herman had spent her childhood being bullied. She became a nurse, as she had hoped, and shortly after she graduated from school, she saw commercials for Operation Smile.

She knew she had to help, as she didn’t want other children to suffer like she did. She recently returned from her 50th medical mission with the organization, having spent 20 years as a volunteer. Today, she’s their clinical coordinator and is still moved by the group’s results.

“My first trip was to Nairobi, Kenya. I was working as a Recovery Nurse for the team. I was hooked as soon as the surgical team placed a child who had his cleft lip repaired, and I got to place the baby in her mother’s arms. The tears of that mother will stay with me forever,” recalls Herman. “I knew this is what I wanted more than my life itself. The redemption moment of child reuniting with her parents, repaired and opening up school opportunities, job opportunities and marriage—a world that child would have never seen, if Operation Smile would not have stepped in! I was hooked and never looked back. I still cry at that very moment, every time.”

Herman explains that “Operation Smile is a nonprofit organization that joins together with other countries in the treatment of cleft lips and cleft palates that occur in their countries. Many of the countries do not have access to safe surgery or the people who know how to do it. Our goal is to get rid of all clefts and teach a country how to meet their surgical needs for those children and adults suffering,” she says.

If you’re interested in becoming involved with Operation Smile, Herman says that you begin by submitting an application. To work as a volunteer nurse, you need to have PALS and CPR certification as well as pediatric experience. You will also need to have specific skills, depending on the area you want to volunteer in: they have pre and post op nurses, recovery room nurses, and OR nurses. If you want to volunteer, but don’t have the skill set, you can volunteer helping with medical records or with photography.

“For whatever area you get accepted in by your application, you will receive training on how the mission works and your roles and responsibilities,” says Herman.

As the Clinical Coordinator, Herman organizes the team on the ground, and she makes sure that all the nurses know their jobs and that every area is set up correctly to standard. She also screens all the patients on screening days, and works with the team leader surgeon, pediatrician, and anesthesia, they decide which patients that are able to operate on and which they can’t.

During their surgery week, she organizes patient flow to and from OR, RR, and post-op. She is also available for every emergency.

“I love this position so much as I get to be involved with the families and my team equally,” says Herman. “The one thing that constantly unites us as a team are those children. We are seriously giving them a future.”

Herman says that people may wonder why she does all this work for free and uses her vacation time to do so. “I have been to about every country in the world and even was inspired to start a feeding program in South Africa from my experiences,” she says, “It restores humanity to your life; it builds compassion and brings nursing to its real roots.”

If you’re thinking about becoming involved with Operation Smile, Herman says that you should do it. “It will be the most inspiring work you could ever do,” she says. “It is their smiles that keep me going back.

To learn more, visit www.OperationSmile.org.

Nursing Students Reaching Out Globally and Making a Difference

Nursing Students Reaching Out Globally and Making a Difference

During Spring Break 2018, graduate nursing students from Wagner College travelled to Cap-Haïtien airport where they would begin a six-day mission to provide health care to the men, women, and children of Haiti. Our NP students acquire 50 community hours toward the required practicum hours for their service.

Haiti, a beautiful country with white beaches and clear blue water, is approximately one-third of this tropical island, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. The name actually means “high land,” as much of the island is covered with mountains. The official language is French with most people speaking a dialect known as Creole.

“For Haiti With Love” is located in the northern area of Haiti called Cap-Haïtien. Our team of volunteers brought a large amount of medicine and supplies, as our NP students would

be treating as many as 50 people per day during the first days in the clinic. Although exhausted, there were no complaints, as this was a gift to the Haitian people given from the heart.

Interactions with the local people gave the student nurses a great sense of satisfaction and exposure to a new and interesting culture. The group was well received with genuine acceptance and welcoming love. Riding on the back of a pick-up truck and eating fried goat were some of the unique aspects of the culture that contributed to this bonding experience.

Upon arrival, poverty and issues with waste management were noted with trash being seen along the road and in the water. Another major issue was widespread unemployment. It was also noted that there was no access to running water or electricity inside their homes.

Although the nursing students were anxious initially, the people made the volunteers feel comfortable and safe. The group was warmly embraced and received three home cooked meals per day and were treated like family.

Children were well dressed and smiling. Although underprivileged on many levels, education was extremely valued among the Haitian people.

The volunteer work at the clinic involved a lot of wound care, such as venous stasis ulcer care. Although volunteers were working in the burn clinic, no one was turned away if they had other health issues that needed to be addressed. Many children received burn injuries from spilling hot water upon themselves. Education related to prevention of burn injuries was badly needed. Most of these children went directly to school after having a debridement and dressing change with little pain management. Privacy was another concern since many patients were treated in one room at the same time.

The volunteers used their clinical skills in a place outside of their comfort zone. Knowing that most of their patients would return to very poor living conditions was difficult for the volunteers. Many reported that this changed their perceptions and their lives. It helped them appreciate their own good fortune, the value of good health, and accessibility to health care. Similarly, the people of Haiti were filled with love, trust, and appreciation for everything the volunteers were able to provide.

Upon the return of the volunteers to campus, they were given the opportunity to present their experiences to other graduate nursing students in their Health Policy, Organization, and Finance class. A lively discussion and exchange recapped the entire experience for our volunteers and left our other students in awe.

Making a difference in the lives of those who may not have the means necessary to help themselves was a good feeling. Most volunteers said they would do it all again if given the opportunity because it was an experience of a lifetime.