Wrapping up my first medical mission

By Molly McDonnell

My trip to El Salvador with the Global Smile Foundation (GSF) last week was by far the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had. Over the course of five days the GSF team and I helped to give thirty children new smiles. Unfortunately, this was only a small dent in the number of children who need cleft lip and palate surgeries in El Salvador.

As rewarding as this mission was for me, it also left me feeling like there’s so much left to be done to help these kids. Changing a person’s life in such a drastic way made me feel so lucky and is truly unexplainable.

The children and families we took care of were some of the most resilient, trusting, and thankful people I’ve come to know. Their genuine appreciation for our help was so inspiring to me that I can’t wait to go back next year!

Emerson was gracious enough to sponsor surgery for two patients — one each in honor of myself and Leanne, my Emerson co-worker who was also volunteering the same week. Both families were more than grateful, and I'm proud that our hospital has been so quick to show its support for us and our mission.

One memory that I’ll never forget is when a 6-year-old girl walked into the operating room before surgery holding hands with a nurse and said, “I’m going to look like a princess!” Her bravery at such a young age made me realize just how needed good clinical care is in under-privileged locations like El Salvador. As this was my first medical mission, I will always hold a special place in my heart for El Salvador and this young girl.

If you are interested in supporting the Global Smile Foundation you can find them at www.gsmile.org. I hope you can play a role in spreading smiles!


Molly joined Leanne Espindle, Emerson’s Director of Surgical Services, on a volunteer mission with the Global Smile Foundation to El Salvador in January 2016. Molly, a surgical day care nurse at Emerson, assisted in the recovery room and Leanne worked as an operating room nurse.