Maira and her Father

From the June 1, 2008 Issue

By Linda Mendelson, RN

This experience changed my life forever!

A gentle man wearing weathered work boots and a cowboy hat looking well beyond his years walked into the hospital in Comayagua, Honduras with his 8-year old daughter. He appeared shy and timid, but knew, shaking nervously as he signed the operative consent, that he had finally found the doctors and surgical staff that could help the youngest of his six children.

Since his daughter early childhood, he had fought to find a way to alleviate the isolation and emotional pain she had endured from living with a cleft lip, cleft palate, malformed teeth that protruded through her nose, and a hearing loss so affected by these anomalies that she could barely speak. He walked a very long distance down from the mountains, rode three busses to arrive at the hospital, and stood on line, along with the others at 6:30 a.m., waiting for Maira’s name to be called.

Every patient was asked to take a shower before surgery. As the bathroom door opened, there stood Maira in her clean gown, water still dripping from the hair that her father had attempted to dry. He held his child tightly as she shivered from the cool air and I searched to find a blanket to warm her frightened little body. I explained that soon one of the other nurses would come to take his daughter to the operating room. His response was somber, but he appeared to understand that Maira would be comforted and well taken care of.

Maira, post-op, with Jeanne Teter, RN

As I turned away, hoping that I had provided some reassurance, I noticed that there had been so much dirt embedded in this man’s work boots that the bathroom floor was covered in mud. The vision of him bathing his youngest child for more than likely the very first time is a memory I will hold dear to my heart for the rest of my life.

Little Maira was transported to the recovery room shortly after surgery and was quite peaceful until her anesthesia began to wear off and even in a state of confusion she was able to mutter the word “Papi.” We were all deeply moved, knowing that the only family member anxiously awaiting the news that the surgery had gone well was the man with the weathered work boots and cowboy hat who had won his daughter’s heart at birth.

It was clear that Maira’s Papi would ease her pain and his presence would be a consolation. I entered the admissions room at the front of the hospital and one of the volunteers met me as if she knew exactly why I was there. She calmly requested the name of the patient and returned within minutes with Paolino, Maira’s father, by her side. The exact moment his eyes met mine a sense of peace fell upon his face. It brought tears to my eyes to have been given the opportunity to inform him that the surgery was over and his child was calling for her Papi.

I escorted this kind and tender man to the dressing room where he donned scrubs and a surgical cap. His expression was compassionate and endearing. When we arrived in the recovery room a chair was waiting for him and one of the nurses placed Maira in his arms and at this moment the crying subsided and this sweet little girl felt the warmth of her father’s love. He now cried tears of happiness and gratitude at the sight of his daughter. He knew that her life would be changed forever and perhaps her hearing would improve, she would learn to speak and even go to school with the other children. This beautiful child and father held each other and their embrace touched each and every one of us in a way we didn’t know was possible.

We all feel blessed that they entered our lives and hope with time the wounds will heal and light will shine on the future of Maira, Paolino and their family.

The only words muttered now were by a father, given faith that his youngest child would live a life he thought was only a dream.

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Operating Room Nurses, RN First Assistants, Physicians: Please call or e-mail if you would like to join us on our next mission to the Honduras