Trip reflections from Ellen Reynolds, CRNP

As I sit at the gate waiting to board my last plane home after a week in Ethiopia with CSI, my mind is starting to return to thinking at a less intense and focused pace. The details about people met and goals accomplished are becoming more rich and clear.  This happens to me every time I work on a medical mission trip. In the moment, success is often measured by tasks completed, mistakes averted and “thank yous” received. For me, the bigger picture often takes time to reveal itself.  

When Dr. Jesse Hennum and I gave a talk about cleft lip and palate to the nurses in Bahir Dar this week, we discussed the psychosocial implications to a family of having a child with a significant facial defect. There were a lot of nods, and after the talk one of the nurses continued to voice his experiences with families who had been ostracized by their village for having such a child. For those of us who are parents, the thought of one of our children being shunned by society because of how they look is incredibly painful. We all know the impact of judgment and prejudice, along with the limitations to self concept they can produce in a person’s mind – as well as opportunities often missed in society. 

In our one- or two- day snapshots of the families we worked with, we saw loving, caring and compassionate parents. We saw kids who were curious, charming and engaging with people and the world. We saw Ethiopian doctors who were smart, talented and willing to go the extra mile to help these kids achieve their best selves. This week, CSI was the needed resource that helped put the pieces together to make a happy, successful life possible for these children. A life where, hopefully, the kids will be judged on their personalities, effort, kindness and integrity rather than the shapes of their faces. CSI removes barriers for children in ways that last for years to come, both through individual surgeries and the education of medical staff that can keep them going. Honestly, this is REAL success!