Operation Smile and Our Medical Mission

If you are unfamiliar with Operation Smile, it is a non-profit, internationally recognized childrens charity that mobilizes a world of generous hearts and medical teams to heal children's smiles and transform lives across the globe. We offer surgery free of charge for cleft lip and palates through volunteer International Medical Missions in developing countries.

We (Mima and Olivia) will be away from the 19th through the 31st of March with a team of 70 people, made up of doctors, nurses, speech therapists, medical record keepers and more. We will be participating as student volunteers on the mission.

The primary role of a student on a medical mission is to Educate. We will be meeting hundreds of families and children everyday at the hospital or in local schools and orphanages. We will have the opportunity to give people presentations about Dental Hygiene, Oral Re-hydration, Burn Care, and Nutrition. We will also be spending time with children and families before their surgeries and after. We also have the opportunity to sit in on surgeries.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


Hello Readers,

I was just thinking about our mission experience in Aswan with Opsmile when I remembered that Jemima and I never made a closing entry on our blog. We never posted pictures like we said we would! Below I will include links to online photo albums about our mission in Egypt this year. I hope that by viewing these pictures you may be able to get an impression about how amazing our experience was.


Also, here is a link to Operation Smile's Student Stories. This link will bring you directly to my mission story. Jemima's has not been posted yet but I bet it will be up there shortly. It is pretty cool to read about what we student volunteers have experienced and I think a lot of the student stories paint a really beautiful picture about what we learned and how we grew during each of our missions.


Olivia Mertz

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Last post in aswan!

Hey everyone,

Today we are leaving Aswan. But we will be home by tomorrow at 4:00 pm!! We have an 8 hour layover in Cairo and we will be going shopping at the bazaar/souq/market there!! We are really excited about this, to see Cairo and we have heard the market there is really cool. Yesterday was the last day of surgery. 12 patients' lives were changed! They were all older patients who had lived about 20 yrs or more with this deformity. One boy looked in the mirror after his surgery and said, "That's not me..." He was stunned. This has been an amazing mission. We are so thankful to have had this opportunity. Can't wait to talk to you when we get home! We'll post pictures and more when we are home! Any questions about our trip? Don't hesitate to ask!!


Mima and Olivia

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day 3 and 4 of Surgery

Hiya peeps!

So... We didnt write yesterday because we were exhausted and got back to the hotel too late. But anyway a summary of yesterday: Woke up early, ate breakfast, went to hospital... We played with the kids a lot. Another thing that is a big hit are "coloring walls". We put up paper on the walls or doors and the kids have fun decorating them with stickers and drawings... the hospital is very colorful now! Mima tried to go to the Operating Room to view a surgery but it was a cleft palate surgery and so it was impossible to see anything, so she left. Later we found out that a code happened soon after Mima had left the surgery. Code means that a kid stopped breathing. It was pretty hectic. During the time Mima was in the OR, Olivia played with families and was bombarded by people wanting to take her picture. Its funny how much we are asked to have our pictures taken. Everyone seems very excited to hear we are from America. They smile and say "OBAMA!!"
That was pretty much our day, later in the evening however we left to have dinner with a few team members and went to one of the nicest hotels in Aswan. Dinner was amazing!

So today we woke up and decided yet again that we were too tired to take a shower. At the hospital we played with some of the cutest kids we have seen, one baby with a cleft lip that was pretty wide could not stop smiling and kicking his chubby legs. To die for cuteness!! Anyway another one of our jobs is to help write in names and information on charts, take patients to the child life specialist from pre-op, and mix amoxiscillin (sp). Early in the day Olivia went down to the OR to watch the cute babys operation which was a unilateral cleft lip. Mima went down later and watched a similar operation. We both decided to stay down there for the remainder of the day and we got to see two operations each. It was really nice because the surgeons love to explain what they are doing and you are standing right next to them looking down at what they are doing. Very inspiring!! It was an opportunity we could not get anywhere else and we learned a lot! All of the operations today ended earlyish so we got to leave and go to the market, silver earrings and scarves :)
We are now going to a pool and pizza party with the team,

Love mima and olivia

Maa Salamah (goodbye)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Day 2 Surgery - Visit with Orphans

Hello all!

Today was the 2nd day of surgery but we didn't see much of the hospital happenings. We played with kids in Pre-Op until around 1:00 pm and then left for a visit with 5 orphanages.
Pre-Op: We had some fun this morning with the kids. We brought a really big inflatable sea turtle--a pool toy-- and we gave it to the kids to play with. They went absolutely nuts over it, which we actually have on film. Three little boys--Ibrahim, Youseff, and Mustaffa-- were jumping like crazy on it and began to fight. There was screaming and crying and what was once excitement and joy turned to stress. The hospital is not child-proof. For one thing, the beds are pretty old and rickety. There are rusted metal pieces coming off of them, and we were pretty scared someone was going to get hurt. So the sea turtle "swam away" for awhile. The morning was pretty good, though hectic with those rowdy boys. Our visit with the orphans ended up being delayed from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Still don't know why... as Margarita would say "What do you expect?! We're in Aswan!!"
Anywhooo, Dr. Ahmed picked Margarita, Rimah (our translator) and us up and we drove to a sports center, where 5 orphanages had gathered for their 'Fun day', which included our presentations. There were 100 kids. They gathered under a tree outside and we presented. They were pretty excited to see us. While we were presenting a camera was also filming us for the local TV station. This all became choatic when we finished our presentations and began to hand out toothbrushes. We held out the first toothbrush to the first child and immediately all the other kids swarmed! It was overwhelming to have 2oo hands grabbing at you and pleading to have a toothbrush. We had enough of course and had planned to give one to each but in the mayhem many came back and everyone tried to settle them down but it was like a riot. We will tell you more about it later...just ask...Afterwards we went out to a restaurant with Dr. Ahmed and he introduced us to some local cuisine: koshary (not sure on the spelling there). Then sugar cane juice which was yummy and we agreed that that is what bamboo should taste like. Then we went back to the hospital and tried to help out whereever we could, there wasn't much however, because everything was closing up. We did see a bunch of kids we have gotten to know in post-op, like Youseff.

Bedtime for Bonzos,

Much love and kisses

Olivia and Mima


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Surgery - Day 1 Woo Hooo!!!

Hey Ya'll
Thanks so much for the comments, it's very encouraging! We are drop dead tired! Today was crazy though! Sorry for all the exclamations but whoa, it is a day worth exclaiming for!!! So today was a 5:45 wake up, breakfast, and then we drove to the hospital. The drive is 10 minutes and the pump up for the day. We see a lot: children going to school in back alleys, goats eating garbage, people smoking hookahs on cement porches, crumbling buildings, and beautiful beautiful mosques. We got to the hospital and set up the child life specialist's room: streamers, balloons, and all kinds of other toys. We were mid setup when all of a sudden the nurses started bringing in the patients. There was this one little boy who was crying because he was scared and all the other kids were fussy too because they had been without food and water for hours. (surgery regulation) The Child Life Specialist's room is the last stop before surgery. The room was too small though, for translators, our sponsor and us, so we moved upstairs to work on other things. Our main area was Pre-Op, basically another waiting playroom for the kids. We colored and played lots of games. Throughout the day we were needed throughout the hospital--in the lab, screening(new patients were coming in), checked in on Post-Op, etc.
This pretty much sums up our entire day. Details later, yeah?
That being the summary, now you get to hear about the patient of the day :)
First of Yussef, cutest boy ever, our sponsor's boyfriend, and has a looooot of energy. It is hard to tell how old he is because a lot of the kids are malnourished. He is getting a cleft palate repair tomorrow. He is the most smiley kid here, he loves to hug and give kisses and be everyone's friend. He got in a fight with another little boy but all is well and they soon had fun spinning in circles afterward.

Thanks for reading!!! Please keep commenting, we were so excited to read your comments!!!

Tomorrow we are going to meet up with 5 different orphanages all together and teach them what we have prepared (our presentations). Very excited!!!!!

Love Mima and Olivia!

The End

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

WOW...What a life!!!


So sorry we haven't written. We weren't really aware we even had a computer to use at first, and then the 2nd day were were too tired and now today we are still very tired, but how could we not write. It is amazing here. In so many ways!!! Our hotel is so nice. We are sharing a room with Margarita our student sponsor, and our room has a beautiful view of the Nile River
SO much has been happening that we think the best way to try to describe it would be in a quickish summary. We have to go to bed soon, actually. (Tomorrow is the first day of surgery!)
SO after a lot of travel, and a mishap with a blizzard, blahblah, we got to Aswan, Egypt at 11:45 p.m. We got to sleep around 2:30! The next day we woke up at 5:45 a.m, had an amazing breakfast--best falafel, eggs, croissants and tea, ever. Then we went to the hospital. There were tents set up there with a few families sitting beneath waiting to be screened. We played with the kids throughout the day and got to know 160 potential patients. We gave around 10 presentations, which the people seemed to really appreciate. We have so many photos. There are just the most beautiful, happy children here. We blew so many bubbles... handed out all kinds of toys... so many stickers and stamps. We talked with the parents and comforted them a bit. We handed out food to everyone. We did a lot. By the end of the day we were so tired that we just went back to the hotel, ate some tuna and went to sleep!
Woke up at 5:45, ate breakfast, went to hospital. There were like only 30 patients the whole day. It was a very slow day. We still played with the kids and gave only a few presentations, but there really wasn't that much for us to do.We got to see what Screening is like, which was cool. There was alot going on, from medical records, to PIT, dentistry, Lab, speech therapy, etc. We got to help out inside of the hospital a little bit and learn the ropes a tiny bit. But there was really not much we could do, so we left the hospital early, around 4:00 and then we got to go the market/bazaar and do a tiny bit of shopping. We were walking dead on our feet but we went ahead with our later plans and went on a boat! A big boat, like a cruise, on the Nile, one of the Cairo student volunteers Grandpa invited us ALL to dinner on it :) yummmmmy yummmmmy food! After that we fell into bed like lead.
So this was today and WOW, we did so many things that it is going to take me awhile to even remember it all...To start with we got up late, around 8:00 am, and then ate breakfast while watching a slide show of someone's past trip to Cambodia. Then we had a team meeting, lots of laughing, talking, joking, I can't remember the jokes but they were making fun of blondes I think. Then guess what?! To the Nile we went! except this time we were actually moving on the water, and it was soooo hot, like I don't think we will ever be able to complain about Carbondale heat again. We were traveling through little islands to a bigger island called Fox Island, very beautiful, you could see huge boulders underneath the boat just inches below the water and the horizon on one side was huge sand dunes touching the Nile while on the other side was the oasis of Aswan. Gosh gee darn, verrrry prettty, and then....CAMELS!!! Woo Hoo!!! I didn't know how funny they are, and when they bend their heads back it makes weird noises, some guy wanted to marry us because we are young and beautiful :) Then we bartered for scarves and won! Got back on the boat, and saw a huuuuge sanddune. That's when the two of us decided that we should run up it and run down it and then jump in the Nile. We did it, and so much fun!!! Running down sand dunes is awesome and then going into cold cool water, ahhh. Then fabulous dancing conversation and food. We are now realllly tired, like everynight. For some reason it hits at around 7 o'clock. OH and 1st day of surgery tomorrow!!! We can't wait to see who we met screening will be there. Apparently there are only a few people that they have to turn away because they are too young to operate on. There will actually be some older people (25+) there too though, usually they are not able to get surgery because they aren't priority one but this mission is able to fit them in :)))) SO excited for it, we are mostly going to be working with the child life specialist. OH plus the Cairo girls we are working with are great, they are our translators too!!! Tamima, Arzoo, Sara, and Nora, all fun and sweet, like everyone on the team. Don't want to make this to long but so long amigos!!!!

Lots of Love from Mima and Olivia!!!!
Will try and write ASAP hard to say though considering our schedule :)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lost in Transportation

So....Yesterday we began our journey. That is until we found out that all the flights out of Aspen CO were canceled because of a massive snow storm. We sat on the plane for two hours until they told us to deplane. It was verrrrry disappointing, we waited all day in the airport with nothing to show for it except bad headaches. The next step was to drive to Denver, through a blizzard, ahhh, what fun.
Thanks especially to Tracey, Mally, Diane, Scott, and Jason. We are thankful for your support and help. So now our travel plans have been delayed a day, but not to worry, the adventure continues! Right now we are in a Denver hotel and are going to the airport 2 hours early to make sure everything works out. Our itinerary now takes us from Denver to Salt Lake, Salt Lake to Paris, and then Paris to Cairo, and then to Aswan. We should be arriving in Aswan around 8p.m., Oh also Egypt is 8 hours ahead of CO time. We are going to be on a 12 hour flight too!
We wanted to upload pictures but we can't find the USB plug on the computer. Just imagine us eating Dominoes pizza in a hotel room with a lot of baggage :)

PLEASE COMMENT so we know you are reading :)


Jemima and Olivia