Chau Doc, Vietnam - Tim Sproule, plastic surgeon: We have been able to correct her palate. Hopefully she also will have an opportunity to live a more normal life, and have the speech to take better advantage of her intelligence.
Chau Doc, Vietnam - Tim Sproule, plastic surgeon: 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.
Ganzhou City, China - Some of the faces were familiar, as this is Interplast’s second trip to Ganzhou City. This little boy from the Xiao family had his cleft lip repaired by Interplast in 2005 and had returned to have his cleft palate repaired. Unfortunately, he had a low hemoglobin count and it would not be safe to operate. Interplast gave his parents some iron tablets to help with his anemia, with the hope that he will be healthy enough for palate surgery next year.
Personally, I was sad to learn that this child would not be coming back for surgery later in the week. When reviewing his chart Monday evening after all the patients had gone, I realized that his family name, Xiao, was the same Chinese character of my own son’s family name, Hsiao. It would have been nice to talk further, although I know Hsiao/Xiao is a common name in China.
Azogues, Ecuador - I had the chance to spend some time in Dr. Amanda Gosman´s OR today, and I was totally in awe. She let me get close to look directly into the mouth of her patient at the cleft palate that she was repairing. It´s such delicate work! In this photo, you can see the apparatus that keeps the mouth open during surgery. There´s also something that keeps the tongue flat against the bottom of the mouth and out of the way of the surgeon.
This is My Linh immediately after surgery, her cleft lip repaired by Dr. Nolan. She is under general anesthesia, but when she wakes up, she'll have a new life awaiting her.
With a reshaped lip (and hopefully next year, a repaired palate), My Linh will be able to eat and grow better. My Linh’s is a powerful story of two miracles: first, of a generous young woman who made a commitment to nurture a seriously challenged newborn girl, and second, of a foreign team of doctors who happened to come to My Linh’s neighborhood and offer their time and effort to help her live a better life.
Especially moving is the story of My Linh, a 1 year old with a cleft lip and palate, who was abandoned by her parents. A sad part of this culture is that many people in this culture feel ashamed of having a deformed baby. Three or four days after My Linh was born, her mother left her at the hospital. A stranger who was in the hospital visiting a friend saw My Linh's father, who was crying. He said he couldn't care for the child and didn't know what to do. The stranger, who was already struggling to provide for 4 children, decided to adopt her, and when she heard about Interplast, she brought My Linh to Tien Giang hospital in the hopes of giving the child a new life.
The days have been long (breakfast at 6:30 and leave the hospital around 8 or 9 PM), but this kind of story really makes our time here rewarding. It reminds us why we are here and of our goal of providing hope to people who desperately need it.
We have already performed about 40 procedures on 31 patients in 3 days. We have seen a wide range of cases, including: cleft palates and lips, eyelid ptosis (where the eyelid muscle does not function and the eye remains partially or entirely closed), some terrible arm, facial and groin burns, a tongue hemangioma where the girl's tongue was several times the normal size, and hand and foot polydactyly (extra fingers and toes) and syndactyly (webbed fingers or toes). It has been amazing for us translator/coordinators, without much medical experience, to be able to work in the OR and witness the incredible work of the surgeons, Drs. Khundkar and Nolan.