Greetings! I am here in Aleppo, Syria, volunteering with the ORBIS Flying Eye Hospital along with my father, Dr. Jay Fleischman.
We have only been here for three days and already there are so many stories to share. From helping to screen patients in the local hospital to watching their surgeries aboard the ORBIS DC-10 aircraft, it has been an incredible experience.
Yesterday we went to visit three-year-old Aya, one of the patients selected to have eye surgery, in order to learn more about her life as well as her medical condition. Her family welcomed us into their home located in a small desert village outside of Aleppo. As we sat cross-legged on the floor drinking our tea, Aya's father explained that although Aya is only three years old, she knows she is different, as the kids always crowd around her and stare when she walks down the street. Born with a cleft palate and an eye that is malformed, Aya's facial structure is misshapen.
Displayed on the wall in the room where we were sitting, Aya's father proudly showed us a large poster-sized photo of his little girl. However, this was not just any photo. It was digitally altered to show what Aya would look like if her eye and facial structure were fixed. The elaborate digital photograph was quite unexpected for us to see, given the fact that we were in an impoverished small village where there did not seem to be any computers. He explained that they keep this poster as a reminder of hope for Aya's future, and they pray for her recovery.
Right now I am sitting aboard the Flying Eye Hospital as Aya is having her operation with Cincinnati's Dr. Mark Cepela, who is also a volunteer doctor on the Syria program. So far her surgery is going very well, and I know it will be successful. Soon, Aya's family will be able to take another photo of Aya. This time, though, they will not need one that has been digitally altered.