A little boy and his toy cars

Jun (name changed for privacy) is a 3-year-old little boy who lives by the creek and is cared for by various individuals. He was first brought forward to Dr. Homer of the Carmona District Hospital during a patient screening event by his mother. He was found to have bilateral cleft lip and had an active pneumonia. He was prescribed antibiotics and it became readily apparent over his second and third preoperative visit that he had a very unstable home setting.

His mother, who had five children of her own, all with fathers who were not present nor involved, worked most of the day. When she was not able to bring Jun, his grandmother brought him to his appointments, but she had 8 children under her care. The last preoperative visit, he was accompanied by a neighbor, who was unaware of Jun’s recent bout of pneumonia and could not confirm that he had received or completed his treatment. Dr. Homer and his team did a home visit, and it was evident that Jun’s setting was not one in which he could be easily cared for.

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In preparation for his bilateral cleft lip repair, Dr. Homer had Jun admitted to the hospital for hydration, feeding and antibiotics. He then underwent his operation with Dr. Samson Lee of Bellevue, WA on October 2, 2018. His procedure took roughly 2 hours to complete, with extensive pre-incision planning. His team included Aaron Stevens from Florida, CRNA Zohar Levites from Florida, Rebecca Hines RN from California. While in the postoperative ward, various family members and neighbors took turns staying with him, while the nurses and mission team supplied him with toy cars and blocks to help him pass the time.  It was such a joy to see the intense concentration on Jun’s sweet face as he immediately came to the realization that he for the first time in a long while, had all the attention he could handle. Our concern was that it might be overwhelming, but he seemed to enjoy his time and the loving faces around him.

In light of his precarious home and social situation, Dr. Homer and the Mayor’s office of Carmona supported him with a two-week post-operative admission to the hospital for a safe, comfortable, and clean recovery setting. He and his family are being provided weekly food vouchers to ensure he and his family are as stress free as possible during his important recovery time. His postoperative visits are once a week until six weeks, possibly longer.

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Together, with suture provided by Ethicon/JJ partnership, instruments provided by Scanlan International, medicines provided by Americares, Blessings and MAP International, support from the University of Tennessee Department of Surgery, linens, surgical supplies and disposables provided by Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and Crosslink Memphis, illumination provided by Precision Surgical, the attention and care of Dr. Homer and Mayor Dahlia and their teams in Carmona, and lastly the heart, leadership and organization of Memphis Mission of Mercy along with the mission family, young Jun is recovering well, gratefully without complication, comfortable and with support from his community. We are blessed to be able to be a small part of Jun’s story, and we hope that it continues to be one of success, joy and recovery. His story is one that we can all see ourselves in, and one in which we are able to witness the power of compassion.

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We. love. our. Board.

What a year it has been thus far. Last year we found ourselves delving into plans that we hope will help sustain our little mission family and work for a long time. We have formed and developed a strong board of amazing folks. We are so grateful for all of them. Here is a little bit about each of them….

Ricky Zalamea, my brother, also a Thoracic Radiologist and logical thinker

Don Guimera, planner extraordinaire and Chair of our Fundraiser Gala Committee

John Shorb a trusted friend a colleague from both the art and non profit sector

Dr Carmelita Teeter, a volunteer from time ago and also a retired Psychiatrist

Dr Connie Babu, a passionate Anesthesiologist and family friend from the days of my childhood

Rob Conley, CRNA, one of our beloved long time volunteers who has been with the family from the beginning

Dr Tom Knipe, similarly has been with us for years, and began with us when he was still in training

Uncle Andy Eugenio, and while we may not be blood related, he is still an Uncle of mine, and is retired as a graphic designer from Fed Ex. He puts together beautiful materials that help us tell our story

Matt Ducklo, has a career in photography and owns Tops Gallery in Memphis, an excellent set of two spaces for various forms of contemporary art. He always has an eye on how we can better present ourselves to the larger community and he is also now my handsome husband!

Dr Van Alstine is a dear long time mission family member who has joined us on mission with his wife, Marcia, as an anesthesiologist. He has one of the most important jobs on the board and serves as our Board Treasurer

Dr Sam Verzosa is an internist here in Memphis who is a supporter of the mission, confidant and continually gives use wise counsel

Jeneba Winfrey-Porter is a dear colleague from the non-profit realm, wise in strategy and disciplined in process. She is our Board Secretary and a valued member of the team.

We have several valued board consultants and advisors as well who have committed to help us along the way:

Mark Crosby, a dear friend, is our counsel and serves as the mission Board attorney

Ken Waxman, a mentor and mission family member since residency in Santa Barbara, is an examiner for international JCAHO and has been our guide in design and build of our mission hospital

James Ferguson is a Certified Public Accountant who has been a friend of the mission from the beginning as well. He has assisted us and continues to assist in all things having to do with our accounting, policies and procedures and tax reporting.

Why the long update? Well, life has been busy, and time has been moving along quickly.  We understand that this group started for a reason, that we were called to serve for a particular purpose, and that this commitment extends past our individual lives and lifetimes. In order to help facilitate the sustainability of our humble organization, and the work and services that we provide, we knew we needed to get organized, defined and delegate responsibility and opportunity.

Even more so now as we head into the next phase of our mission life, we are SO grateful for those of you who are with us. We are grateful for those who were with us in the beginning, in helping us vision, and being by mom and dad as they did the seemingly impossible. That effort has enabled our little mission group to provide over $17.2M worth of free surgical services to the poor in the Philippines since 1999. Their ongoing perspective and wisdom and spirit enables us to get up and do this again every day. We are grateful for those who has more recently joined us, for sharing in our vision and for maybe helping us see things through varying lenses. We hope to be humble, nimble, open and caring in everything that we do in and through our little mission group.

We are honored and excited to be a part of something so special and a group so passionate, and to be looking towards a better surgical future with our partners in the Philippines.