Be The Good: Priscilla Newman

REED’s Be The Good program provided funding for Priscilla Newman’s recent service trip to Lima, Peru. She spent her time as part of a medical team that conducted important cleft palate and lip revision surgeries for children in need of medical care. This trip was organized by Healing The Children, which partners with American doctors to provide urgently needed medical care to children around the world. 

Priscilla shared with us a bit about her experience.

1. How did you spend your time in Peru? What did a typical day look like?

We arrived in Lima on Saturday, November 4, at 3 a.m. and had free time until 5 p.m. to sleep, buy souvenirs and do some sightseeing.

The following morning, we drove on a bus to the hospital to aid Healing the Children in arranging operating rooms, an audiology area and a speech area. We worked at the hospital for the following four days from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the first operating room case starting at 8:30 a.m.

There were 15 people assigned to assist in the operating rooms. Each operating room had one surgeon, one circulator and one scrub tech working in a room with two operating tables.

Our roles alternated per day. For example, on Monday, I circulated the cases, which meant that I was tasked with preparing the room and assisting anesthesiologists with intubation and extubation. Then, on Tuesday, I was tasked with scrubbing the case, which meant handing the surgeon the instruments needed to perform the surgery while semi-sterile.

2. Why was participating in this service trip important to you? Why was it vital to the community you served?

I’ve always wanted to participate in a medical service trip, but the timing was always off until now. It’s always good to remember why I chose the profession I did, and even though my children are young, I wanted to show them that they can do anything they put their minds to. 

This medical mission trip was remarkable because we were able to perform 110 cleft palate, lip revision and strabismus surgeries, and we prescribed 200+ eyeglasses. The probability of cleft palates is higher in the Inca region due to a lack of maternal nutrition, genetics, quality of living conditions and idiopathic reasoning. 

Most children we served were between 2 months and 14 years old. Cleft palate surgeries are vital for these children for many reasons, including feeding purposes, community acceptance, and equal opportunities.

3. What was your favorite part of your service trip? Why?

My favorite part of the service trip was riding on the bus each morning and hearing stories from all the different departments. My favorite story came from the ophthalmology department. 

A mother and daughter duo came in, and, to the surprise of the ophthalmologist, the daughter was the blind mother’s primary caretaker. The ophthalmologist came to realize that the daughter’s eyesight was -18, meaning that the daughter was nearly legally blind. 

Luckily, the department could have special glasses made for the daughter. When she received the glasses, her mom told the ophthalmologist that she named her daughter “Luz” because she was her light. 

4. What is one unexpected thing you learned from your time in Peru?

I was surprised to learn that there are people who truly appreciate the small things. Many Peruvians endured significant struggles and sacrificed time for us to assist them.

5. How has participating in this trip changed your perspective and expanded your view of the world?

Participating in this trip made me appreciate how lucky I am to have access to healthcare and running water and to be in good health.

6. What is one challenge that you met during your time in Peru and how did you overcome it?

The exhaustion. 

Being on my feet for 10 hours with very little time to sit took a toll on my body. Working 12-15 hours a day, sleeping 4-6 hours each night and eating too early or too late has a way of throwing your body off. 

I was able to push through and overcome this because I knew that all 48 of us were in the same situation and that it was temporary.

7. What do you miss most about Peru now that you’ve returned home?

I’m going to miss the kindness of the Peruvians. It was overwhelming to see how thrilled parents were to see their child with a repaired lip or cleft palate. 

I will also miss the hospitality and food!