Rodrigo Comes Home

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Hello Everyone,

I am going to show you some pictures that will warm your heart about Rodrigo. But I am also going to show you the other side of the coin where it gets hard. I actually had no idea how hard, and so if you have a tender heart or weak stomach you need to skip reading this news letter now OK? I am just warning you so you know. Well here is what happened.

I drove back to the hospital in Tejutla on the Pacific coast to get Rodrigo and his father. I got there late Friday night and went in to find Rodrigo and his father both doing well but homesick. Here in Rio Dulce it is HOT but at 8000 ft up in the mountains it is cold and they froze all week. So they were ready to get back to their normal environment. So at 5:00 am we got Rodrigo and his father and the two surgeons who were part of the surgical team from Helps International and we headed out for the 12 hour drive home. We stopped in the first big town that had a Burger King and got breakfast. Rodrigo and his father had never heard of Burger King let alone seen or ate at one.

Rodrigo trying to smile but the pain took its toll. But he liked American Fast food and especially the tater tots, so this was a good sign.

Here are the two surgeons getting him packaged for the long ride home.
The lady on the left is Dr Amanda Gosman.

Dr Amanda Gosman is probably one of the most gifted and aggressive plastic surgeons I have ever had the honor of knowing. When I first met her I thought what the heck does this young girl know about surgery? After being across from her for 7 hours and watching her perform a miracle on this boys arms I realized this is one special person. She is awesome. She took Rodrigo on as her special project and is now working on getting him into the "Fresh Start" Surgical program for kids who need this kind of surgery but have no chance of ever affording it. She also is in the forefront of high tech Telemedicine and canít wait to work with us via the video system we now have up and running. Let me show you what Simone King of MedVision donated to us.

This piece of equipment is connected to high speed internet and I can call a hospital with similar equipment and the doctor can see everything I am looking at with a patient. It has a main camera that sees the patient from eye level and then there is an arm that holds an overhead camera with a fiber optic light source that lets the doctors or surgeon look down on the patient and can be moved by the doctor remotely. The reason this is so important to me and Rodrigo is that Dr Gosman said that she would not normally be able to do this aggressive of plastic surgery on a patient in a 3rd world country, because there would not be follow up on the patients recovery and no therapy to keep the arms from contracting and webbing again. The reason she did this surgery was due to the fact she can now see Rodrigo every day from her office in the San Diego CA hospital and can see him live as to his healing and how it is doing along with monitor his therapy and progress. So having this machine at this point in time was quite a 'coincidence' wouldn't you say?

So we finally got home and Rodrigo walked to our dorm steps which will be his home for the next two weeks. He was so happy to be back in Rio Dulce and out of the hospital and cold. The next day we loaded up Rodrigo and his father along with Dr. Amanda Gosman and her sidekick Dr. David Frankel, who is a general surgeon, in the boat Dr. David Frankel is also a great surgeon and we also became good friends. We took them by boat to the village of Jocolo (pronounced Ho-Co-Low). There Rodrigo's mother waited on the shore to meet her son with his arms straight out for the first time since his burn a year ago. Normally Quetchie people are not emotional at all, but she held him and cried tears of joy and it was a special moment for me to see. You see this all came about because the people of this village stole my boat and took the motor and sold it. Now 4 years later, we not only have a great relationship with the village but look how God is taking care of Rodrigo. The doctors allowed Rodrigo to stay over night that night in his home with his 6 other brothers and sisters and Mom and Dad. Everyone was happy and the surgeons got to see the home Rodrigo lives in and meet his family which they do not normally get to do when on surgical mission trips, so for them it was a special time also. The next day Rodrigo and his mother came to the dorm to stay for the 2 weeks of intensive cleaning, changing bandages and the most important, Therapy. After Dr. Amanda showed us what she wanted us to do for changing the bandages then Dr. David started teaching my nurse Marleni and I how to do the therapy.

I know to you this looks bad but to us this is wonderful and healing well, remember what He looked like before?

This is what we took care of for a year with constant pain and infections. Now he is healing and has a new chance to live a normal life.

So here comes the hard part. Here Dr. Dave is teaching us and Rodrigo what has to be done 2 times each day. (Dave is a great surgeon but he looks like Jerry Seinfeld and Adam Sandler and I kept wanting to get his autograph). However in the teaching process he told us that this will be very painful and hard for Rodrigo and that is why parents cannot do it. They will not bend his arms enough to stretch the muscles and tendons to work, because it hurts and they just canít take the pain to their own child. So I told them that I could do it and no problem because I know it is helping him. Plus I am a big strong, solid mass of rippling muscle tough guy and so I will take this job. Dr. David said, "Bryan, you have to put your emotions aside and push past his limit each time even when he cries." I said. "Not problem I understand." After my first session I realized I was nothing but a marshmallow. I just could not take the screaming of this poor little boy who up to now trusted me to help him and be his friend. Now I am hurting him like I cannot imagine and I melted and had to leave the room. So Marleni has to do the therapy because I can't do it. Above: Dr. David and Dr Amanda are teaching Marleni how to change the bandages and re-apply the special dressings.

Here Marleni is doing the therapy. She gave him a break I came back in to check on him and get a photo of his progress and he looked at me like "Bryan, please help me". I had to leave the room again. Even Dr. David could not take it when Marleni was doing the therapy. He was this tough surgeon who coached us to not give in to our emotions but when the nurse began and Rodrigo screamed he could not take it either. Below: she is working on Rodrigo's worst arm. This is kind of blurry because I could not see through my tears to take a good picture. I have a whole new respect for physical therapists I can tell you that. Well anyway, we now have a long two weeks ahead of us in doing the dressing changes and doing therapy on Rodrigo. Please, Please, pray not only for Rodrigo but his mother too. She has to sit outside the ER and listen to his screams when the treatments are being done. On days when Marleni does not work here I have to do the therapy so I am going to give Rodrigo some pain meds and valium and then I am going to take more valium myself. I'm serious as a heart attack. I am a wimp when it comes to this.

OK well I do have to say that this whole thing of getting Rodrigo to this surgery and meeting these two amazing surgeons and how this is all working out is beyond my imagination. I have a team of Med students from LSU coming in a couple of weeks and I will get them involved in the treatment which will be a real test of their skills and fortitude. But they will learn a lot and it will be good training for them.

I also wanted to give a quick update on Jocelyn since some folks have asked about her. She is living with her mother and the couple from Charlotte that are willing to adopt her are helping the mother financially so she can keep Jocelyn at home instead of at the orphanage. Right now, adoptions are on hold here in Guatemala so things are uncertain but hopefully in God's timing this will all work out for Jocelyn as it has for Rodrigo.

OK, I have to run but let me say this before I sign off. Don't hesitate to drop me an e-mail once in a while and let me know your opinion of my news letters. I don't hear much back from folks and so I don't know if I am crossing the line with my life and pictures. Sometimes after I read my news letter sometimes I feel like maybe I should not have shown people the hard part or the heart wrenching part of my work. Not everyone wants to see the other side of the coin. So give me some of your thoughts so I will know if Iím off base, OK? I can hear some of you guys right now saying, off base this guys has been off his rocker for years. OK, OK, but I do value your opinions anyway.

God Bless,
In His Service,