Cleft, Microtia, and Dental Mission Cusco and Cajamarca, Peru | May and June 2011

MMFC just returned from two very successful missions to Peru, both led by MMFC Medical Director Helen A. John-Kelly, MD.  The first mission to Cusco took place from May 20-28th. Our  22 member team  completed 38 surgeries including cleft lip, palate and microtia procedures. Our dental and speech team members also provided services to over 100 patients. The second mission to Cajamarca took place June 17-26th. Our 16 member team performed 41 surgeries. Our dental and speech teams provided services to 95 children. In total, MMFC screened and provided  care to over 300 children in Peru. MMFC sends missions to both Cusco and Cajamarca in order to reach children in both both southern Peru (Cusco) and in the northern highlands region (Cajamarca).

For the very first time, a father in Peru scheduled an appointment for us to screen his four month old daughter and her cleft lip for possible surgery on MMFC’s Facebook page. Imagine that!

Thank you to our extraordinary local coordinators Ani Forsyth and Ita Gamero whose work year round ensured the success of these missions. We also appreciate  the warm welcome and partnership with the medical and administrative professionals at both EsSalud Hospitals including Dr. Ocania, Dr.  Cabello, Dr. Guzman, Dr. Farfan, Dr. Diaz and Dr. Bueno, as well as Jorge Idrago and scrub nurse Juan Carlos. All of our esteemed Peruvian counterparts either scrubbed in with us and worked side by side with our  surgeons and anesthesiologists, or trained with us learning the English names of all the surgical insruments,  and/or agreed to provide the necessary follow-up care care for our patients during the next year until we return in 2012.

MMFC and the children who received the life-transforming surgeries are forever grateful for the financial support of the Children of Peru Foundation,  Smile Train, Inc. and our local Peruvian sponsors, Asociacion los Andes de Cajamarca (ALAC) Secretaria Tecnica del Programa Minero de Solidaridad con el Pueblo de Cajamarca (PMSC).

Mucho gracias!

MMFC is grateful to the families who entrust us with their care of the children.  Mostly, and as always, it is the children we meet and the stories we hear that enliven and embolden us to keep marching forward in our quest to help each and every child around the globe who suffers from a congenital facial deformity and is denied much needed medical treatment. Here are some of the stories collected by our hard-working volunteers, Marianne Ruelle and Susan Ruggera.

Luz, age four months.

Luz Angelica is a four month old girl with a primary cleft lip deformity. Her family lives in Cuzco, but her father works hours away from their home. When Luz Angelica was born, her mother had to lose her job to take care of her; she needed extra care because of her malformation. Since then, the family has been living in extreme difficulty. Luz also has two sisters, aged four and eight. Neither of them has a cleft lip or palate. This year, after she heard about the mission, Luz’s mother brought her in for treatment. “I just want my girl to have a normal childhood,” says the mother with tears in her eyes.  MMFC operated on Luz and repaired her cleft lip.

Ivel, age five months.

Ivel, a five month old boy, was born with a bilateral cleft lip. His family lives just outside of Cuzco, in San Jeronimo. His mother is dedicated to him and to her two other sons, aged four and nine. His father, an architect, travels constantly around Peru to try and find a decent job to support the family. Ivel is the only one in the family with a cleft lip. When he was born at EsSalud hospital, Dr. Gustavo Bueno told them about the MMFC mission. 5 months later, his mother brought him in to get surgery. “I just want Ivel to have a better childhood than I did. I am so thankful for what these people are doing.” says Ivel’s mother. MMFC repaired Ivel’s bilateral cleft lip.

Rachel, age fifteen years.

Rachel has an ear deformity (first stage microtia). She is from Arequipa but has been living in Cuzco with her parents since 2006. Last June, she came to the hospital with her mother and learned about the MMFC mission. Rachel goes to an institute to learn english. She also dances at school when she has spare time but she doesn’t want to put her hair in a bun like the other girls because she doesn’t want them to see her ear; she is afraid they will make fun of her. She hopes that this surgery will give her new opportunities. Rachel also does very well at school. “When I’m older, i would like to be an architect or a lawyer, but I also love math and science fiction.” she says

Jose Antonio, age ten years.

Jose Antonio is a ten year old boy with cerebral palsy. He goes to a school of children with special needs located in Cuzco. This year, the founder and coordinator of the school brought her students to MMFC to be treated. A lot of children had never seen a dentist before, so many of them had dental rehabilitation, including Jose Antonio. Jose lives with his mom just outside of Cuzco. They live in extreme poverty but this year, his mom got a job at his son’s school. She also has another son with cerebral palsy, Deyvis, who was treated during the mission by the MMFC Dental team like Jose Antonio. This year, their mom participates in parent support groups to try and help her two special needs children. She is so thankful to be able to work at the school and to be with her two boys, and now to have the care of MMFC.

Henry David, age 13

Henry David is a 13 year old boy with both cleft lip and cleft palate deformities. He lives with his parents and 6 siblings in the village of Tallambo. The family heard about MMFC coming to Cajamarca on radio Lider.  In order to get to EsSalud in Cajamarca, Henry David and both his parents walked 3 hours to the nearest city Cruzconga in the province of Celindin. They then took 2 buses for a total of 6 hours to Cajamarca. There are no other clefts in Henry David’s village.  Henry David is very lucky. He has been raised by a supportive and loving family in a supportive and loving community, which is not the case for many of the children we treat.  In fact, many local Peruvians believe that a child is born with a cleft deformity because the mother did not care for herself properly during pregnancy. Another local belief is that while pregnant, the mother was struck by lightning during a thunder storm.  In either case, there is a social stigma attached to the family. Not in the case of David Henry, though. His parents and siblings have worked with him on his speech and comprehension.  He attends 6th grade and while he struggles academically, he has been able to remain at grade level due to the support of his family and community.  Most important, Henry David is a happy, secure and well-loved boy who was never made to feel different or less special as a result of his facial deformity. He has many friends and loves to play futbol with them. He loved having his picture taken even before surgery, and easily and happily made friends with MMFC’s Junior Volunteers, Nell Franchek and Dan John-Kelly. MMFC performed a cleft lip repair on Henry David this year.  He then consulted with MMFC’s speech therapist Audrey Hivner and MMFC’s Pediatric Dentist Dr. Tony Vinciguerra. We scheduled an appointment for him to come back to Cajamarca in a few weeks to see the Director of Dental Services at EsSalud, Dr. Josef Guzman who will fit him with an obturator at no cost to his family. This will help Henry David with his speech and eating. Next year, he will return to Cajamarca and a determination will be made as to whether he needs to have his palate repaired, as well.

Lenin, age 15 months

In 2010, the MMFC team was met at the Cajamarca airport by a band and the parents of newborn named Lenin. The parents made such an impression on all of us.  On Wednesday of that surgical week, we repaired the newborn’s cleft lip. We later learned that the parents had not heeded our discharge instructions and had taken Lenin’s  arm boards off thereby allowing Lenin to pick at the stitches in his lip.  Lenin did in fact tear out his stiches the following Saturday. This year the parents returned to Cajamarca and promised that if MMFC fixed their son’s lip again, that they would follow our discharge instructions to the letter, and of course, we did.  Our dentist Dr. Vinciguerra made an appointment for Lenin to see Dr. Josef Guzman, the Head of EsSalud Dental services who has agreed to fit him with an obturator at no cost to his family. The obturator will help Lenin’s feeding and speech until he is ready for cleft palate surgery, in 2012.

Lister Segundo, age 7

This year our very first patient was Lister Segundo, a 7 year old boy who suffered from a severe lip and palate deformity that required two surgeries. Last year, Lister Segundo walked 2 hours from his village of Calvario –Cortegana to the nearest bus stop. He and his mother then took traveled for 6 1/2 hours by two buses to EsSalud Hospital.  Unfortunately, Lister Segundo and his mother were too late and missed the MMFC Screening Day and Lister Segundo could not be scheduled for his much needed surgeries in 2010. Undaunted, Lister Segundo and his mother came to EsSalud every day last year hoping for a cancellation. He stopped eating or drinking water after midnight every night (as all surgical patients are required to do) hoping the next morning he would be notified of a cancellation and would be ready for surgery, but there was no cancellation. Lister Segundo could not receive his surgeries in 2010. We promised Lister and his mother that if he returned to EsSalud this year, we would perform our first surgery on Lister, and we did. MMFC performed both a primary lip repair as well as a primary palate repair on Lister this year. He and his mother were overjoyed.

Sanchez Bacilio, Merly Nathaniel, age 4 mos.

On June 16, the day before our Cajamarca Team of Volunteers headed out to Cajamarca, a father named Oscar Sanchez Jara posted this on Medical Missions for Children’s Facebook page “Good morning friends, I am told that this weekend June 18, 2011 will be in Peru, right in the city of Cajamarca, true information. If so tell them that I have my little baby to be operated, but the same date also operate in other parts of our country. Please confirm if traveling to Cajamarca to register my little 4 months old.” I wrote back to Mr. Jara and informed him that we would indeed be in Cajamarca and would be screening patients for surgery and that he should arrive at EsSalud on Sunday June 19th by noon. He did, and his his daughter Merly had his cleft lip fixed on Tuesday June 21st. Imagine that … and appointment scheduled from Peru via Facebook. On Monday, June 27th, back at home in the States, MMFC  received this email from Mr. Sanchez:

I want to extend my gratitude to all members who visited doctors on 19 June this year in Cajamarca – PERU, with the aim of carrying out the operations of cleft lip and palate, we extend our heartfelt thanks for support, for his humanity, for the love they have shown towards our children, we carry in our hearts to all of you who took pains all week to benefit our children.

On a personal level, my wife and my family, we send our infinite gratitude for my baby Merly operated, we will take forever in our hearts and thought life, thank you, will always welcome to this beautiful land of Cajamarca – Peru.

No names but I can describe briefly. Infinite thanks to the doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, everyone in general, the doctor in the recovery room for the patience and love for our children.


Oscar Sánchez Jara

Shugar Leonard, age 1.5 years

Shugar Leonard is the third of three children. The family does not  live in this district they live Bolivar in La Libertad. Shugar’s Father has a cousin who lives in Cajamarca and the cousin called him and told him about MMFC. There is no public transportation between these districts so they arranged for a ride in a van. Shugar got his name because his Father was watching a fight of Sugar Ray Leonard and thought the name was cool. The Father says his family knows of one other child with a cleft lip who was lucky enough to be able to afford a private physician to perform the surgery. Shugar Leonard’s Father stated that “[I]f it were not for MMFC, Shugar would never be able to get this surgery,” and he is eternally grateful.