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Interplast Surgical Outreach Director Publishes A Book on Cleft Lip and Palate Treatment.

Dr. Percy Rossell Perry, Interplast surgical outreach director in Peru, recently published a book on cleft lip and palate care. His book ,“Tratamiento de la Fisura Labio Palatina” (Cleft Lip and Palate Treatment), is based on Rossell’s experience traveling throughout Peru for 15 years to perform more than 1,000 cleft lip and palate surgeries for impoverished children. Interplast has been his partner and supporter for more than 7 years, empowering Rossell with medical training, quality improvement and funding to provide surgeries for poor children. Rossell wrote his book “to promote scientific publications amongst the medical community in his country in order to further the development of medicine in Peru,” according to the introduction.

His book embodies Interplast’s empowerment mission of building the medical capacity in poor countries. By providing surgeons in his country with valuable, up-to-date medical techniques, Rossell is helping to train other developing world doctors to perform high-quality cleft surgeries, now and in the future.

Interplast congratulates Dr. Rossell for his book and for his work healing children with clefts. We are proud of our long, strong partnership with him, formed for the betterment of impoverished children throughout Peru.

Interplast Kudos in Philanthropy Publications

Interplast Web site Interplast recently received great shout-outs about its blog, web site and donor appreciation.  The NonProfit Times listed Interplast and five other nonprofits for having "Hot Nonprofit Web Sites."
The popular Kivi's Nonprofit Communications Blog also listed Interplast as one of her favorites and gave Interplast kudos for their donor appreciation letters.  Her blog was then picked up by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, where Interplast was mentioned again for our letters to supporters.
Interplast is proud and honored to be highlighted. This recognition is a testament of the hard work Interplast puts into keeping its supporters engaged and informed.

We encourage you to visit our web site on a regular basis for updates and improvements.  Also, make sure you visit our various social networks, including our Facebook, Flickr and YouTube Channel.

BBC’s Report on Immolation Echoes Interplast Partner’s Experience in Sri Lanka

The BBC reported today about the rising level of self-immolation among young women in Afghanistan.  Their report ties the rise with extreme poverty, domestic violence and lack of women’s rights in the country.  It tells the tragic tell of women who feel their situations are so desperate that they have no other choice.

The piece echoes what we have been hearing from Interplast partner Dr. Chandini Perera.  She runs Sri Lanka’s only burn unit, where more than 80 percent of her patients, mainly women, are victims of domestic abuse, violence and self-immolation.  Like in Afghanistan, there is a tragic rise of self-inflicted burns among women in Sri Lanka, which also has the highest rate of suicide in the world. According to Perera, more than 70 percent of her patients (more than 500 patients in 2008 alone), have inflicted themselves with disabling burns, losing all hope after years of horrible abuse.

Kumari For example, Kumari, a young mother, suffered repeated beatings and marital rape from her alcoholic husband.       The last horrible beating and rape were too much for Kumari (pictured above) to bear and she set herself on fire, seeing no other way.  When Perera met Kumari, her head was sealed to her chest, her arms could not move; she could not feed herself, and was pregnant as a result of marital rape.

“Kumari is a classic case of domestic violence.  A young wife puts up with the beatings because in our culture it is acceptable, because no one talks about it.  We do not empower women to cope and seek help.  Domestic abuse covers all spectrums of society, but those in lower socio-economic groups are most at risk because they do not have the power to divorce, leave their men or earn their own income,” said Perera.  “In addition, in our part of the world when you are pregnant, you really only want to look at beautiful things; so if you are burned, deformed, abused, you can not even go to a maternity clinic because other pregnant women can not look upon you.  It is difficult to get my patients even in the maternity ward of my own hospital! That is how stigmatized burns are.”

But Perera fought to get Kumari the maternity care she desperately needed and had the right to receive, even though she was disfigured.  Perera also provided reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation and counseling for her. Kumari can move her head and arms again and her family has come to her aid and is helping with the children, including a new baby.

Perera believes that empowering burn victims to reenter society will help change social attitudes toward domestic abuse and disabilities—and hopefully, fewer women will suffer in the future.  Her studies on the rise of self-immolation in Sri Lanka have been presented at the International Society of Burn Injuries and other international medical conferences, to raise awareness of this tragic and hidden trend.

Photo by Phil Borges.

Teaching in Phan Rang

Originally uploaded by interplast

Phan Rang, Vietnam-Kathy Yates, Interplast board member.

We are joined by Dr. Do, a Vietnamese anesthesiologist from Tam Ky, who met our team leader, Dr. Richard Gillerman, when Dr. Gillerman was in Vietnam on an Interplast trip several years ago. Dr. Do sent one of his patients to see us last week, and has decided to join us himself for hands-on participation. Teaching local practitioners is a core aspect of the Interplast mission and Dr. Do has come to avail himself of the opportunity to learn from the three other anesthesiologists on the trip. It is disappointing that there are not more local surgeons or anesthesiologists who have come to observe. That may be due to the fact that this is a new location for Interplast (this is only our second year visiting this location.) It typically takes several years to develop the appropriate level of infrastructure and relationships for a mature Interplast teaching program with full participation from local hospital staff and doctors. Local doctors want to confirm that it is worthwhile to take days or weeks out of their own practice schedules to work side-by-side with the Interplast team. That happens over time, as repeated exposures to the local community and observations of patient outcomes over an extended period build Interplast’s positive reputation.

As early representatives for Interplast, we are all aware of our visibility and the need to be good ambassadors for the organization. This is part of the reason why a veteran team was assembled to come to Phan Rang and help establish a positive relationship with the site.


Originally uploaded by interplast

My Tho, Vietnam-Teresa Olson, Interplast development coordinator.

Today we operated on 2-year-old Huyen. When I first met this adorable little girl she stood out from the crowd because she was so shy. Her endearing smile worked itself into my heart in seconds. When her mother rolled up Huyen's sleeves I was surprised at the severity of her deformity. She had no functioning fingers. Our surgeons discussed for a long time how they could help this young girl; Huyen's hands would never be fully functional. Finally the surgeons asked Huyen's mom what she hoped for from this surgery. Tears welled in my eyes as Huyen's mom explained all she wanted for Huyen was for her to be able to lift a spoon to feed herself or hold a pencil so she could attend school. That is the biggest miracle she could hope for. After today’s surgery she will be able to do both of those things. Life will not be easy for Huyen, but it is not without hope.

Tu’s Second Chance

Originally uploaded by interplast

My Tho, Vietnam-Teresa Olson, Interplast development coordinator.

We have been in My Tho now for a little over a week. The team has gotten the routine down, and it is giving me more time to go and meet with some of the families. It is touching to see the mother's bright smiles when I come into the room. The children, too often weary from surgery are surprisingly happy and energetic. Today I met a young woman named Tu. She is 20 years old and incredibly beautiful. She had already received a surgery for her cleft palate over a decade ago, but the wound did not heal correctly and she was still very embarrassed about the deformity in her lip and nose. I was overwhelmed with sadness when I learned that Tu had dropped out of school in the 10th grade because she knew that even with a diploma she would not be hired by any larger company (which pays more) because of her deformity. She now works at a fish canning factory for very little money. She has wanted to have this surgery for many years now, but to pay for it herself would cost three years of her wages. Tu is afraid to speak to strangers because they stare at her lip. She is also afraid to be in a relationship because she believes it will only cause her pain. Her life, thus far, has been filled with rejection. Her hope, now, is that this surgery will make her more confident and allow her to build a better life for herself.

Fraternal Twins

Phan Rang, Vietnam-Kathy Yates, Interplast board member. Boy twin

A very young baby was brought in for surgery today. At first glance I thought he was a girl. All dressed in pink, he was a beautiful child; sadly Girl twin he was born with a cleft lip.

              I was puzzled to see him dressed in girl’s  clothes.  After asking why I found out he has a fraternal twin sister and was borrowing her sweater and hat for his trip to the hospital. We asked the mother to bring her to the hospital so we could see them together. Now that he has had his surgery, they are a nicely matched set!

Punkaj's Letter

IMG_1382 Dehradun, India-Nicole Friedland, Interplast chief development officer. Photos by John Urban.

Punkaj stayed at the clinic for the entire week leading up to his surgery. It was too far and expensive of a journey to travel back and forth between his home. A few days before his surgery he respectfully asked the surgeons if he could have a different surgery then they had originally planned. He was set to have additional work done to further release his neck. Instead, he asked if he could have the contracture in his armpits released. He shared that his school is a long way from his home and he has to ride his bike to get there. Because of his contractures, it is difficult for him to lift his arms high enough to hold the handle bars and this difficulty was impacting how often he was able to attend class. Of course, the doctors agreed and before we left Punkaj received the surgery which will give him much greater movement in his arms and shoulder.

IMG_2120 Here is an excerpt from Punkaj's letter to the volunteer translator and team: "You and all your team members are very nice. All of you are God sent to us. You are like God on earth for us. All of you have our heartfelt prayers. May God give you all the happiness and may he grant all your wishes. May you always be happy."

In this blog, although he may never see it and he surely doesn't understand English, I'd like to write my own note back:

Punkaj - Your bright and hopeful spirit touched our hearts. It was our joy and our privilege to be able to help you. Every day when we arrived at clinic you greeted us with a smile, a 'good morning maam' and stretched our your hands to take ours in greeting. What a lovely person you are. We wish you success and happiness.

International Women's Day

Dr. Chandini Perera with patient

On this International Women’s Day, we would like to reintroduce you to Interplast’s partner Dr. Chandini Perera of Sri Lanka.

Chandini (shown above) is one of only six plastic surgeons in Sri Lanka and head of the country's burn care facility.  She heals and empowers abused women with disabling burns (mainly from acid burns and self-immolation; 70 percent of her patients are abused women).  Her patients include Kanchana (shown below), whose boyfriend threw acid on her in anger of her leaving the village for nursing school; she is now a nurse at the National Hospital of Colombo.

Kanchana Burns are the only injury that happens more to women than men—mainly because of domestic chores on open fires but tragically, often because of domestic abuse.  To give context to how large a problem it is, nearly 4 million women fall victim to a severe burn from fire each year—the same number who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS every year. 

As you celebrate International Women’s Day today, we hope you will remember women in developing countries who suffer from disabling burns and women like Dr. Chandini Perera who helps heal and empower them.  To learn more about Chandini and her work, check out NPR’s interview with her.

Photos by Phil Borges.

It's Never Too Late

Originally uploaded by interplast

Phan Rang, Vietnam-Kathy Yates, Interplast board member.

Throughout our visit, we have been accompanied by a representative of the People's Commitee of the Vietnamese Socialist Government. We are here with the official sanction of the government, and the local People's Committee has been active in spreading the word about our visit. It was because of the Committee that another of our patients found us. A 63-year-old man, he has lived with a pronounced cleft lip all his life. After our clinic on Monday, a member of the Committee from another city heard that we were in town and contacted the man’s wife to tell her she should have her husband come down. He came in on Tuesday and just walked into the areas where we were keeping our records. He spotted one of our surgeons, Dr. Duke Hagerty, who was sitting on a bench taking a break from the surgeries of the day. The Vietnamese gentleman, Mr. Tran, came and sat down right next to Dr. Hagerty. There was no translator present. Dr. Hagerty just looked at the man and nodded his head, “Yes, we can help you.” Today Dr. Hagerty repaired the man’s lip. Twenty minutes of surgery, and the man was transformed. We brought in his wife. She liked what she saw! Due to his age the surgery was done under local anesthetic and Mr. Tran was discharged directly from the recovery room. The team had only a few minutes to admire the enormous change the surgery made to the man’s face, but all of us were a little misty-eyed when Mr. Tran and his wife walked out the door.

Global Health