Cleft and Dental Mission Quito, Ecuador | Aug, 2011

Fayth Kestenbaum is a valued MMFC Volunteer. She serves as Editor of MMFC’s quarterly e-newsletter and Event Coordinator of MMFC’s annual charity golf tournament at the Marshfield Country Club in Massachusetts. In August 2011 she traveled with MMFC as the Administrator on our Quito Ecuador Cleft mission.  Beginning in October, Fayth will be volunteering full time in Haiti with Grassroots

August 20-27 marked the 13th annual mission to Quito, Ecuador, led by MMFC Board Member Dr. Rafael Barrera. This is MMFC’s longest-standing mission, and the 27 team members flew into Quito from all over the United States and England, eager to get started. Word had spread that MMFC would be coming, and as a result, 120 patients and their families showed up on Sunday to be screened in hopes of being approved to receive life-changing surgery. Despite the first-day chaos, patients were seen and the first round of surgeries was scheduled for the next day. Throughout the week of long days and early mornings, the team worked hard to make sure each scheduled patient received their surgery. With three ORs running at most times, no time could be wasted and everyone chipped in where they were needed. There were between 15-20 surgical procedures completed each day. The smiles on the parents’ faces upon seeing their children after surgery made the team’s long and tiring days worth it! While at times it seemed as though Murphy’s Law was in full effect, with sick team members, broken office equipment, and heavy traffic which delayed surgery start times, the team managed to complete operations on 75 patients.  This mission also ran a dental clinic led by MMFC Board Member Dr. Charles Badaoui. By the end of the mission, 34 children and young adults had received much-needed dental care. Members of the Quito team headed home with spirits high after a successful mission (despite the impending travel delays caused by Hurricane Irene!).

Here is a look back on some of the patients helped.

Luis, 1 year

Luis turned one year old on screening day, and two days later we performed surgery to fix his bilateral cleft lip. He and his mother traveled 5 hours to receive care from MMFC. No one else in their family has any cleft deformities, and Luis was the only person in the indigenous community where he and his family live that has this deformity. People in his community were afraid of him, but now Luis will be able to make friends and live a normal life.

Gina, 4 years

Take one look at Gina and you can’t avoid noticing the scars that cover her face and parts of her body. Her father, angry because he suspected her mother of being unfaithful, set their home on fire without realizing that Gina was inside. Gina was badly burned, and some of the fingers on her left hand were essentially “glued” together. Gina showed up after screening day had already passed but we couldn’t turn her away. Members of the MMFC surgical team separated the fingers that were stuck together so that she could have better use of her hands.

William, 6 months

William and his mother traveled from Pachicutza, a rural mountain town located all the way down in the southern part of Ecuador, about 250 miles away from Quito, to meet the MMFC team and receive surgery to repair his cleft lip. Before his surgery, his mother had a very hard time feeding him, a common problem with cleft deformities. Without surgery William would grow up isolated from the rest of society, unable to find work or make friends. Now that his cleft lip has been repaired, he will see improved eating and drinking abilities, and as he grows up he will be able to live a normal, healthy life.

MMFC would like to thank our in-country coordinator Mary Kay Dassum for helping to plan the Quito mission and to ensure that everything was in order for the team’s arrival. MMFC would also like to thank our Quito mission supporters Pedro Alvarez, Fuad Dassum, Philips Healthcare UK and Ireland, and Verathon. Finally, thank you to the staff at Fundacion Tierra Nueva/Hospital Un Canto a la Vida for hosting us and helping us run a smooth and successful mission.