In the building blocks of days creating the bridge to Blessings surgery, myself, along with Operation of Hope President slash Executive Director slash my older sister, Jennifer Trubenbach, Jennifer’s daughter Mari Mora and Zimbabwean nurse, Martha Pamire have had the opportunity to spend time with Blessing up-close-and-personal. We’ve introduced Blessing to the taste of Mexican food for the very first time, which he gave two spicy thumbs, straight up. Thanks to the many in the San Diego business community who have offered us free tickets, Blessing now knows what a “24 hour Fitness” is. He’s been to the Scripps aquarium and upon seeing the ocean for the first time, simply said, “Wow.” Blessing also enjoyed the San Diego SEAL Harbor Tour complete with a wild dolphin sighting. In uber-luxury seats at the Cinepolis, we watched Bruce Wills demonstrate his mad driving and shooting skills in the action thriller “A Good Day To Die Hard.” And a day before his surgery, we were treated to an incredible behind-the-scenes VIP golf cart tour at the San Diego Zoo.
Being the only male in the group, I have the honor of sharing rooms with Blessing. The download is, he’s an interesting kid. He never turns on the TV, rather he opens his books and practices algebra or studies the SAT textbook we bought him. He plays with his Rubic’s Cube. And of course, he spends time on Facebook as this is the fastest way to stay in contact with friends and family back home in Zimbabwe. The most shocking thing I noticed…he makes his bed every single day! All said, I still find myself coaching him. At first, I noticed he would only brush his teeth in the morning but not at night. When I mentioned it was a good idea to brush his teeth at night, he looked at me with a crooked face and explained that he never knew. His diet is also a concern. Now mind you he’s as skinny as a clarinet reed, so a few french fries can’t hurt, but the U. S. of A. sure knows how to plop shrek-sized portions of everything imaginable in front of him. It’s also the first time in large part that he’s been given the opportunity to eat so much junk food. Keep in mind he’s 20 years old, not 12, so I do respect his decisions are his, as well as, all the repercussions. Yet, the french fries keep coming. The soda keeps coming. The slurpies keep coming. The vegetables…well…Blessing says when he gets his new teeth, then he will think about eating vegetables. Mari and I try to impress upon him the importance of whole foods, grains, low sugar beverages and vegetables, vegetables, vegetables. So when the waiter asks what Blessing wants to drink, he orders a coke and then slowly he turns to meets my fatherly eye in a way that say’s sorry, “I can’t help it…but I love the su-gar”.
On the day before his big surgery, Blessing slept. As in, all day. He woke up around 1, took a shower, nibbled on some left-overs, then went back to bed and slept till 5. That night we were invited to our friend’s house here in San Diego. Sean and Natalie Rones and their two insanely adorable daughters Talia and Jayden have been in Blessing’s corner trying to raise the roundtrip airfare for Blessing and Martha. Natalie was born in Zimbabwe and moved with her family to South Africa when things became politically tilted in the years leading up to Zimbabwean independence in 1981. In a gesture of comfort, Natalie prepared South Africa pap (white corn meal) and gravy for Blessing so he would have a proper African meal before his big day. Blessing was quiet all night. No doubt he was weighing the reality of the morning that stood before him.
And when the big day came…at long last, Blessing got his surgery. After 5 long years of drooling, and speaking with a tongue seared to the side of his mouth by scars, Blessing got his surgery. After five years of being very hard to hear when wet words were pushed and forced out of his mouth, Blessing got his surgery. After 5 years of stares and wonder, Blessing got his surgery. The team at SHARP Memorial headed by Dr. Berger has been nothing short of kind and brilliant. After 13 some intense hours, Blessing was rolled out of the Operating Room and into ICU with his newly constructed jaw firmly in place. If it weren’t for the bandages and heavy sedation, I’m sure Blessing would have smiled ear to ear.
With so many individuals and groups to thank, Blessing really has created his very own beautiful village. Within this village, a few people come to mind as instrumental in making this all happen none larger than our dear friend Gary Fudge. Gary has been in our corner for years as a champion of our cause, humble to say his is the ‘easy part’ implying that to suture a face back together or breathe air into a dying premature baby and see it blink to life is the difficult part. However, without donors like Gary, we would never be put into a position to do the ‘hard work.’
We thank Jessica Ellis with CNN for placing Blessing under her wing for without her the story is shared by few, not many. We thank Dan Gross and everyone at SHARP Memorial who, after so many hospitals said no, Dan gave this case a look-over and came back to us with a dignified ‘yes.’ And the biggest thanks is reserved to my sister, Jennifer, who simply knows how to knock on chilly doors, cast her net wide and connect good people to things that matter in life. Jen always says after a surgical mission, we get our metaphorical teacup filled. Our hearts brimmed with the satisfaction of helping others. After Blessing, she may need to procure a larger cup.
We thank our donors who took action and gave and will continue to give. Donations cover food, fuel, the rent-a-car, air mattresses, airfare, parking, clothing and manpower. (all housing was donated by Rancho Bernardo Inn, DOMAIN San Diego, Old Town Inn and Sarah Goncalves. Our donors know we are not a charity that lines our pockets, but a charity that loves what we do and has sacrificed heavily to breathe life into this organization that was created some 25 years ago. We encourage you to give as Blessing will be here over the next 5-8 months as two more surgical procedures are part of his overall schedule. We need your help and support not just for one day of surgery but rather, a realistic span of time needed to fulfill this medical journey and also to support our work in Africa and SE Asia with the hundreds of children we help annually.
Fittingly, Blessing was recovering well today in ICU. He was watching Charlie’s Angel’s on an iPad he borrowed from Mari. He could not speak but he used notes and hand motions to express himself. He stood up, sat in a chair and pressed the button readily to provide a much needed drip of morphine to ease the pain of someone who, to put it bluntly, just had a leg bone yanked out and stuffed, albeit most skillfully, into their mouth. In this setting, Blessing looks up to Jen and hands her a hand-written note.
I love you. You are my pillar of hope and strength.