Chongqing, China--Emily Ulm, RN: I am back from Chongqing, China and am sitting here in the wee hours of the morning trying to feel sleepy enough to go back to bed. Jet lag is not a pretty thing.
My first Interplast trip was absolutely unbelievable and indescribable. The countryside in China is lush and green from all the rain, with beautiful rolling hills. I was told by one of our host members that we brought the sunshine; that normally it would be raining a lot more at this time of year. The cities were clean and very aesthetically pleasing. I especially liked the farms in Chongqing that were built on the slope of a hill--tiers of land that resembled a staircase from the distance.
I fell in love with the children from the moment I saw them. We were able to operate on about 54 by the end of the trip. After our chief surgeon had to return home after being injured, our surgical fellow, Dr. Ian Wilson, took up the slack for a couple of days by operating in two rooms. When one case was done, we were ready for him with the next one to begin right away. Kudos to Dr. Wilson for helping to get these kids' surgeries done. Also, a huge thank you to Dr. Shankar Rai, who joined us in the second week from Nepal to help Ian operate on the children.
Once the cultural barriers were down, we were able to make many close friendships with the people of China. The PACU nurses worked closely with some volunteer university students from China who were indispensable. They all became quite close. The OR nurses befriended the local Chinese OR nurses and again formed some great friendships.
While visiting the Buddhist temple, I was met by an elderly man who said something to me in Chinese. I asked one of our volunteer students to interpret and she said that he said, "Even though we do not speak the same language, we are still the same people inside." It brought tears to my eyes.
I fell in love with China and the people and was thrilled to be a part of something so big and helpful for the children.