During our busy last day, while trying to get through our “half-day” schedule, a Pequeño* needed to be seen in clinic for ear swelling. He is a 13-year-old with autism that the NPH’s internal clinic referred to us. He would not let me examine him much, but from what I could tell, it looked like it might be mastoiditis with an abscess. The staff, anesthesia, nurses, and techs all rallied to get him added to the OR schedule, altering the plan for the volunteer clinic team to take the afternoon off.

In the OR, it turned out that Carlos* had severe mastoiditis with a sub-periosteal abscess. He needed to have a mastoidectomy to drain the infection. Mastoiditis, when untreated, can lead to meningitis. NPH staff members were concerned about him and wanted to know all of the details about the surgery and how he was doing. It was so touching to see the love that the NPH staff, Holy Family, and our volunteers had for him. He has never had a visit from his own family, but he is loved by so many at the ranch that it brought tears to our eyes.

Amazingly, ENT happened to be on this brigade, and this happened right before we were about to shut down the OR. It’s hard to know what would have happened if the brigade wasn’t there. We were able to still make it to the soccer game that afternoon and lose badly to the Pequeños. Afterwards, a few of us paid a visit to him at the internal clinic. Because of his autism, he needed to be monitored by his “brothers” and nurses overnight so he didn’t remove his bandage and drain. He seemed more comfortable.

*Pequeños is Spanish for “little” or “child.” Pequeños refers to the orphaned children living on NPH Ranch.
*Name changed for anonymity