Board Member, Children’s Lifeline International
In 2000, I accompanied a pediatric cardiology mission to a children's hospital in Santiago, Chile. Once I was there it was so obvious I needed to put myself to work as well. I picked up my video camera and started shooting and documenting the medical mission. South America led to Central America then Africa, India, and Cambodia. The globe still spins…so much to do, so little time.
I can still feel the searing heat and smell the dust in the air when I look at this photo of children at a school in Ogbomoso, Nigeria. We were filming a Lifeline mission to prevent the spread of HIV-AIDS. The children were running wild, excited to see cameras and visitors, when their teacher emerged in the yard with a bell and a big stick. All the children scampered into the classroom.
Unfortunately, the spread of HIV-AIDS is still out of control in much of Africa. In Ogbomoso, Last Respect Caskets occupied the largest storefront in town.
These two adorable girls, Channa, 8 and Rachna, 4 were almost going to be sent to an orphanage or be given up for adoption because they both had heart defects that needed surgery. Their distraught parents, who live on about $1.00 a day, had no way to pay for surgery for one child, let alone two. Medical missions always change lives, but in certain cases, they also change destinies.
Two-year old Nishant suffered from grave congenital heart disease that required an open-heart surgery. He would have died in his small village in India without the life-saving operation he received on a Lifeline mission to New Delhi.
Most often, the primary focus of medical missions is on children, because there are always so many in need of treatment. Parents, however, are sometimes equally traumatized. Foreign doctors speak in a language they don’t understand and for many families who travel a great distance to seek free medical care and experience their first time in a hospital.
This picture of Nishant and his father brings tears to my eyes because he was saying goodbye to his son in the event the boy did not come back from the Operating Room. Fortunately, Nishant survived and went back to his village a week later, happy and healthy.