This little guy has a pretty straightforward unilateral cleft lip. As you can see, the cleft extends from the lip up to the nose. When he eats, the much of the food may come out of his nose, and he is more prone to infections and malnutrition, not to mention speech impediments.
Yesterday, Amanda operated on a boy with hemifacial microsomia, a congenital condition which left him with a misshapen, shrunken and misplaced ear as well as a type of cleft lip called macrostomia, where the left corner of the lip doesn’t end at it’s usual location and instead extends out on to the cheek towards the ear, making it difficult for the child to eat. Surgically fixing the mouth cleft is fairly straightforward. It is also possible to correct the ear, but not with the resources that we brought with us on this trip. The boy’s grandmother asked us if she could donate her own ear for her grandson…We had to say no. But at least we have made his mouth deformity a little better. They are grateful for that.
A six year-old girl, with a cleft palate, is, according to her mother, very bright and does well in school. But she comes home most days in tears: she is teased by other kids because of her abnormal speech.
This has been probably the most experienced team I have worked with. In particular we have experience in our OR nurses. I discovered Jogi is 72 years old- yet she works tirelessly, putting those 1/2 her age to shame. Likewise Bojan has been on over 30 Interplast trips, and runs the OR with ruthless efficiency. We think they can be likened to the Rolling Stones, those great icons of Rock and Roll, whose music was undoubtedly playing here in Vietnam way back during the war. Joji is the ageless Mick Jagger, while Bojan is definitely Keith Richards. In any event, they are a total pleasure to work with.
One week has passed since we came to Chau Doc. I got called “in” at the last minute, because somebody was unable to go. It happens!
I had no idea who was going. Did not know a single person on the team. That did not faze me. I should be used to it by now. This is my 62nd trip, half with Interplast and the rest with other organizations.
It didn’t take long before we all knew each other. We joined in airports, talked, drank coffee and learned each others names.
We are a great team!! We have a wonderful leader that keeps us all in line. Anesthesia has yet to leave anybody asleep too long. The translators have a job I wouldn’t want for any money in the world! They are everywhere, all the time, helping with everything, regardless if it is their job or not. Patients are well cared for by the pediatricians. They are ready for us in the morning so we can start our day.
We are an international group of medical people. We do medicine the same way all over the world. At least five countries are represented. You should listen to us talk!!
We are blessed with good help in the operating room. Scrub people from the hospital are doing a great job. They are interested in learning, helping with turnovers and end of day cleaning.
We have had a great patient load so far. Cleft palates and lips every day. A surgeon’s dream!! Still, we are not able to do all the patients, so we are all looking forward to coming back next year and do some more.
It’s a good feeling to be able to help children all over the world. It’s a never ending job and I am glad to be part of the team.
The team I have had the pleasure to work with are all great people. Without a thought they throw themselves into helping out with whatever is necessary, whether it be carting a patient to the ward or cutting up wrong sized invitiations to the party we wish to throw for our hosts.
Interestingly, the bird flu is not without concern here to the Vietnamese. They have a fair idea of the dangers and have posters distributed around the hospital that illustrate safety precautions. I myself have not felt in any greater danger from bird flu than any of the other myriad of infections and afflictions that are possible in a place that is unfamiliar.