A Hands-On Approach to Care

Volunteer Story
Medical volunteers from Operation Smiles Future of Smiles mission in Durgapur, India, with their names written in Bengali on their arms. The mission featured volunteers from 12 different countries all working together to provide safe surgical care. Photo: Nicholas Nottage.
Medical volunteers from Operation Smiles Future of Smiles mission in Durgapur, India, with their names written in Bengali on their arms. The mission featured volunteers from 12 different countries all working together to provide safe surgical care. Photo: Nicholas Nottage.

Our promise of improving health and dignity during the COVID-19 pandemic endures. We're helping front-line health workers stay safe, nourished and empowered to better serve their patients by providing life-saving supplies and equipment, as well as remote training to bolster their response. We’re also providing nutritional assistance, hygiene kits and virtual health services to support people and their health needs so they can thrive. If you can, when you can, help us keep our promise to care for children and create hope for tomorrow.

In West Bengal, India, a young boy and his family traveled to a strange place in hopes of receiving a surgery that would change his life.  

Waiting in line for his name to be called, Astik noticed his grandmother, Rutipa, had a nervous expression on her face — and he mirrored it. When he looked ahead, he heard unfamiliar people speaking a language he didn't understand.  

Before he knew it, nurses with stark-white gloved hands were examining his cleft lip.

For Astik and many more patients like him around the world, receiving treatment at an Operation Smile medical mission marks the first time they’ve received care from doctors and nurses.

To make this new experience as comfortable as possible, the medical volunteer team at the site in Durgapur, India, took a hands-on approach: playing with gloves.

And thanks to the support from Ansell, a global health care company, there are always plenty in supply at Operation Smile medical missions. With one of its global headquarters in Melbourne, Australia, Ansell is a world leader in providing superior health and safety protection solutions that enhance human well-being. The company has partnered with Operation Smile since 2016 and routinely provides protective gloves for medical missions in India and around the world.

Operation Smile volunteer nurse Lora Edwards said this approach is similar to the way child life specialists calm children before surgery by slow exposure to operating equipment through play.  

“Before I start working with a patient, I’ll blow up a glove and decorate it,” Lora said. “I turn the gloves into fish, let the child paint the nails or draw faces on the gloves.”

Lora said she does this before she begins touching a patient’s face to help them become more comfortable with the feel of the glove and grow more at ease with the medical process. 

Through partnering with Operation Smile, Ansell help create a safer and more protected world by routinely providing gloves for medical missions in India and around the world. 

Additionally, Ansell donates gloves to Operation Smile’s cleft center in Durgapur, where they are stored in the warehouse. The donated gloves are either used at the cleft center or are distributed to various mission sites across the country. Any gloves leftover from missions are returned to the cleft center to ensure that they never go to waste. 

Boxes of Ansell gloves waiting to be shipped to an upcoming medical mission in India. Photo: Nicholas Nottage.
Boxes of Ansell gloves waiting to be shipped to an upcoming medical mission in India. Photo: Nicholas Nottage.

According to Operation Smile India's executive director, Abhishek Sengupta, these gloves are a hot commodity among the volunteers.  

“They (Ansell gloves) are the only gloves the surgeons and nurses request,” Abhishek said. 

The quarterly shipments of gloves are frequently marked on the volunteers’ calendars, he said, so they know when to expect them. 

Dr. Alexis Rothermel, a surgical resident, said, “The gloves definitely allowed me to feel very comfortable while providing care to the patients but did not impede my dexterity while operating.” 

Dr. Alexis Rothermel performing surgery with the help and supervision of cleft surgeon from India Dr. Gaurav Deshpandey. Photo: Nicholas Nottage.
Dr. Alexis Rothermel performing surgery with the help and supervision of cleft surgeon from India Dr. Gaurav Deshpandey. Photo: Nicholas Nottage.

Wearing gloves is critical for the safety of both the patients and medical professionals.  

Karen Allen, an Operation Smile volunteer nurse on her second medical mission, fully grasps the importance and value of working with high-quality gloves.

“Everyone deserves to be healthy and safe in their workplace, and having reliable gloves available — despite working in countries that may not have the same resources — is crucial to making the medical volunteers feel comfortable and relaxed. I have used Ansell gloves before and always appreciate my chances to use them.”  

Volunteer nurse Karen Allen teaches one of the patients how to blow bubbles during screening day. Photo: Nicholas Nottage.
Volunteer nurse Karen Allen teaches one of the patients how to blow bubbles during screening day. Photo: Nicholas Nottage.

While she spoke, Karen grabbed the glove on her hand by the bottom and pulled on the end, mimicking how she first slid them on.  

“If I had done that with the gloves I use back home, my fingers would have come through the end and the bottom would have ripped,” she said. 

Since her job requires her to wear gloves often, she admires how the Ansell gloves never leave her hands sore after a long day's work. 

"These gloves always meet my expectations when I have the opportunity to use them,” Karen said. 

The site in Durgapur is shared with a medical college, and several of the nurses in training assisted during the medical mission process. Karen's proper use of the gloves “sets a good example to the student nurses as well.”

Gloves are an integral part of every step of the medical mission process. Fortunately, with Ansell’s generous support, Operation Smile can ensure patient safety throughout its medical missions — and continue to bring them some comfort, too, in the form of a glove-shaped fish. 

Karen posing with some of the student nurses who assisted during the Future of Smiles mission at the Durgapur care center. Photo: Akash Samanta.
Karen posing with some of the student nurses who assisted during the Future of Smiles mission at the Durgapur care center. Photo: Akash Samanta.