Mission Trips

Cajamarca, Peru | Nov 22 – Dec 1, 2013

From November 22-December 1, 2013, MMFC’s team of 18 volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, speech pathologists, and administrators returned to Cajamarca, Peru for a week of cleft surgeries and dental care.

In one week the team completed 46 surgical procedures, including repairs of 14 primary cleft lips, 8 primary cleft palates, and 5 lip revisions. In addition, 145 dental procedures were done, including 11 under general anesthesia. Our speech therapist gave 16 speech therapy sessions as well as 43 consults.

One of the most interesting patient stories from this week was of Maria Angelina and Magali Davila (below). Magali is Maria’s niece, and they are both from Bolivar.  It took them four days to travel to Cajamarca, including a day and a half of walking.  Maria’s brother (Magali’s father) joined them on the journey to Es Salud hospital in Cajamarca.  Magali is in her first year of primary school.  Unlike Magali, Maria is mentally challenged, has never gone to school, and does not know how to read or write.   They live in a very rural community where outside communication is limited, and even a telephone signal in rare. They found out about MMFC’s mission from a radio broadcast and decided to make the long trek together.  Maria and Magali both received surgery to repair their bilateral cleft lips, making the journey to Cajamarca all worth it.

MMFC would like to thank the Helpers of the Mentally Retarded and the Hess Foundation for their donations toward this mission.

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Tacloban City, Philippines|Nov 1-10, 2013

From November 1-10, 2013, MMFC sent a 15-person team of volunteers to Tacloban, located on the Leyte island of the Philippines. Working alongside the staff at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center (EVRMC) and the Maharlika Foundation, the team had a full schedule of cleft patients planned for the week.

Led by Drs. Arnold Lee and Pratik Pradhan, the first day of surgeries went off without a hitch, but on Tuesday morning the team learned of a typhoon headed straight for the Philippines. Super Typhoon Haiyan was gaining strength by the hour and the coastal city of Tacloban was expected to be one of the hardest-hit areas. By Tuesday afternoon the tough decision was made to cut the mission short, and tickets were purchased for the next available flight out of Tacloban. MMFC couldn’t take the risk that came with riding out this storm, which was so strong that it didn’t even fall under any of the existing hurricane or typhoon categories.

The MMFC team finished as many surgeries as possible before the end of the day Wednesday, packed up supplies and equipment, and flew out on Thursday morning on the last flight to Manila before all others were cancelled. In three days the team repaired 12 cleft lips and 7 cleft palates – a great accomplishment, especially given the added stress of the typhoon.

MMFC plans to return to Leyte, but it will take time for the needed infrastructure to be rebuilt. The EVRMC was the only functioning medical facility following the typhoon, but it still sustained significant damage.

Our thoughts are with all those who were affected by the typhoon, and we look forward to returning soon.

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Danshui, China|Oct 25-Nov 2, 2013

From October 25-November 2, 2013, MMFC Chairman Dr. Dennis Snyder led MMFC’s third annual mission to Danshui, China. This is one of MMFC’s smallest teams, with just 7 doctors and nurses traveling from the US to perform free cleft surgeries. Despite its small size, MMFC’s mission to China was nothing short of a success. The team screened 57 patients, completed 28 cleft lip repairs, 6 cleft palate repairs, and provided dental care to 35 children and young adults.

One of these patients was a girl from Hui Yang Town named Zhao Yong Feng. After she received surgery to fix her cleft palate, the MMFC team received the following letter from her father.


Dear Honorable Hui Yang hospital leader, Honorable MMFC China team, Honorable Local Women’s Federation, Hong Kong Volunteer Team and all other people who worked to support the China mission:

I am from a very poor family in Hui Yang Town, China. I have a daughter. Her name is Zhao Yuan Cheng.  She was born with a cleft palate.  She could never speak very well, and because of my family’s financial situation, we could not afford the surgery to help her.  The mission presented my family with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for my daughter to have the corrective surgery. The surgery was very successful.

I thank everyone to whom this letter is addressed from the bottom of my heart.  While my daughter was in the hospital, everyone in the hospital ward took such great care of her. I cannot thank them enough.   The medical team from both China and the US showed me that love is boundless.  I do not know how to express my gratitude.  I can only thank you over and over again.

This surgery changed not only the life of my daughter, but our entire family.  I hope MMFC will continue to work in China to carry out this wonderful mission–providing life-changing surgery for the most vulnerable, poor and voiceless.

My best wishes for all of you good-hearted people.  May you enjoy good health and every success.  According to a Chinese Buddhist saying:  Good–hearted people are on the path to Goodness and Light.


The father of Yong Feng

October 31, 2013


MMFC extends sincere thanks to its donors and volunteers for their continued support and dedication, and to the Hui Yang Peoples Hospital for graciously opening its doors and allowing MMFC to complete another successful mission.

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Quito, Ecuador|Oct 12-20, 2013

From October 12th to 20th, MMFC’s 26-person team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, dentists, nutritionists, and non-medical volunteers from the U.S. and England returned to Quito once again for its annual week-long surgical mission. In five days the team completed 10 cleft palate repairs, 1 cleft lip repair, 7 palate revisions, 2 lip revisions, 4 rhinoplasties, and 26 scar revisions. The dental team also operated on 22 patients.

With such a large team and diverse patient population, our Quito team is able to provide a wide variety of surgeries aside from solely cleft repairs. No matter what kind of surgery the patients received, it will have a profound impact on their lives.

These are just a few examples.

Damiza is a 5 year old girl who came to MMFC with a keloid on her left forearm, which she had as a result of a bad burn. The keloid caused her terrible itching, and removal of the scar tissue would relieve this. During examination on the day before surgery, Damiza was crying and complaining of tooth pain. The dentist discovered a dental abscess, so arrangements were made with the surgery team and on the following day when she went into the OR, the dental team performed a tooth extraction and drainage of the abscess while the surgeons excised the scar. The following morning Damiza was smiling, feeling betting with no tooth pain, and happy to know that the scar was gone and that the surgical incision would heal to a fine line. Her mother was very grateful and appreciative of the care provided as well as the attention she and her daughter received.

Matias Venegas, lip revision

Maria Yumi, neck scar revision

Magali Arcinigas, rhinoplasty

Emi de la Cruz, lip scar revision

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Guatemala II |Jun 22-29, 2013

Sofia Zoullas is 16 years old and lives in New York City. She attends the Chapin school as an 11th grader, and this past June she got to do something that most teenagers don’t get to experience; She participated in MMFC’s mission to Antigua, Guatemala as a junior volunteer, taking all of the pre-op and post-op photos and collecting stories of some of the children she met.

MMFC sends a mission to Antigua, Guatemala two times each year. On June 22-29, our team of volunteer doctors, nurses, and administrators returned for another week of cleft surgeries and dental care. By the end of the five operating days, the MMFC team had completed 34 cleft surgeries and provided dental care to 21 children.

Thanks to the dedication and generosity of our volunteers, donors, and the Hermano Pedro Hospital in Antigua for opening its doors to us, these children received life-changing operations that they normally would not be able to afford. These are just a few of those children.

Juan Carlos Utuye

Juan Carlos is an 11-month old from Media Luna, about 5 hours away from Antigua. The youngest of four children, he was born with a bilateral cleft lip, and his mother brought him to MMFC’s mission with hopes of having it repaired. Juan Carlos’s mother heard about MMFC through an organization in the region that has an outreach program for children in need of cleft lip and/or cleft palate surgery. With his deformity, Juan Carlos required a lot of extra time and attention from his mother, who has three other children to care for. The surgery that Juan Carlos received was the first stage of his cleft lip repair; when it is complete, it will not only life-changing for him, but also life-changing for his entire family.

Santos Moises Lajpop

Santos is a 1 and a 1/2 year old boy, born with a unilateral cleft lip. He lives with his parents and four siblings in Momostenango, about 5 hours away from Antigua. After learning about MMFC at a local clinic, Santos came with his father to have his cleft lip repaired. Before he received surgery, Santos had a difficult time eating and as a result is malnourished – a common problem among children with cleft deformities. Now, with his lip fixed, he will live a much healthier and happier life.

Sebastian Aguilar

Sebastian is 6 months old and comes from Rincon de los Leones, about 5 hours away from Antigua. He is the youngest of four children. His mother heard about MMFC through the organization Asociación Compañero para la Cirugia, which advertises for us in local clinics. With his severe deformity, Sebastian would not have been able to live a normal life. He had trouble eating, and the local community blamed his mother for his cleft lip. Now his mother will be able to take better care of him and his siblings.

Esmeralda Bartolon

Esmerelda is 16 years old, and was born with a cleft lip and palate. She is one of ten children and just had her lip repaired two years ago. Her neighbor made the nearly 12-hour journey from Tacana with her this year to have her palate repaired, since her parents had to work and take care of her siblings. For the 14 years before her lip was repaired, Esmerelda never left her house – not even to go to school. She couldn’t speak well and was afraid of being teased for her deformity. Now that her palate has been repaired by the MMFC team, she is another step closer to having a more normal life. She now hopes to improve her speech through therapy.

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Cusco, Peru | June 14-23, 2013

Cusco, Peru is one of MMFC’s longest-running missions. This year, with Dr. Helen John-Kelly as the team leader, we returned from June 14th to 23rd with a 24 person team of doctors, nurses, speech pathologists, volunteers, and administrative staff, ready for a busy week of cleft, microtia, and dental surgeries.

By Saturday afternoon most of the team had arrived. With Cusco’s elevation being over 11,000 feet, altitude sickness is a big concern, so in order to avoid having any sick team members, Sunday is a day of rest on this mission, a low-key day to acclimate to the altitude.  Many team members went to the Sunday market in Pisac to get their souvenir shopping done early. With so many first-timers on this trip, there was a lot of nervousness and plenty of questions, but everyone was excited and anxious to get to work.

The team arrived at the EsSalud hospital on Monday full of energy and focus, and was welcomed by a lobby jam-packed with patients and their families waiting to be screened. This was screening day – always the most hectic day of the week on any mission, but especially so with such a large team. Thanks to careful planning and coordination with local staff, the team screened over 100 cleft, microtia, and dental patients in just a few hours, and by that evening MMFC had all of its cases scheduled for the rest of the week.

Throughout the course of the four operating days, using two operating rooms, the MMFC team completed surgeries on 13 microtia patients, 16 cleft patients, and 25 dental patients. Those numbers did not come easily, though; the days were long (12-16 hours!) and exhausting. But thanks to everyone’s hard work, we were able to help many beautiful and deserving children.

Saul Quispe

Saul is a 12 year old boy who lives with his parents three hours outside of Cusco. He was born with moebius syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that causes facial paralysis. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like to not be able to form any facial expressions, which play a huge role in our daily interaction with the world around us. This year, our surgical team successfully completed a thigh muscle graft on Saul. This was the first of this type of surgery for MMFC, and the biggest reward is that now Saul can finally smile.

Rommel Cartagena

Rommel is two months old and lives with his parents in Anta, a town about an hour away from Cusco. When he was born, the doctor told his parents about MMFC’s annual Cusco mission and suggested they bring Rommel to repair his cleft lip. Our team operated on Rommel on Tuesday, and his parents were so thrilled with the result that they wanted Dr. John-Kelly to be their son’s godmother! Rommel’s father is a driver, and he even offered to drive our team around when we return next year. This is a terrific example of how MMFC’s commitment to its mission sites, and the fact that we return annually, allows local physicians to refer patients to us that could not otherwise afford a cleft surgery. They know from year to year when we will be returning and more important, that we will return.

Sebastian and Luciano Ripa

Sebastian and Luciano are four-year-old twin brothers. They were both born with a cleft lip – one with a bilateral cleft and the other with a unilateral cleft – and they had both come to MMFC’s Cusco mission in prior years to have those repaired. This year, they returned to receive dental care and have palatal obturators fitted. No one likes going to the dentist, especially if it means having teeth pulled, but these two boys seemed to always be smiling. We love to see past patients return – especially when they have a smile on their face!

Cesar Paro

Cesar celebrated his 18th birthday while recovering from surgery to repair his primary microtia.

Zoraida Ima

Zoraida, three months old, received surgery to repair her unilateral cleft lip.

Our mission to Cusco was a success once again, and it would not have been possible without so many different groups of people working together to make it happen – MMFC is extremely grateful to EsSalud for welcoming us into their facilities, to Edouard Ruelle and the Children of Peru Foundation for their generous sponsorship of the mission, to our wonderful local coordinators Ani Forsyth, Patty Galup, and Susana Mayer, and especially to this year’s team of extremely hard-working and dedicated volunteers.

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Rwanda, Thyroid | Mar 7-17, 2013

Mary Beth Hagey is a docent for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and a board member of a private foundation awarding scholarships to students demonstrating outstanding service in their communities and academic excellence. For the past 25 years, Mary Beth has been an active volunteer for the local schools (room mother to PTA President), in her community (scout leader, coach and mentor), as well as on a global level (participated in and organized the AIDS Walk Africa for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation).  The “Greg Feldman, MD, Memorial Surgical Mission to Rwanda” is Mary Beth’s first trip with MMFC. 

Screening Day

Sunday, March 10, 2013

“Muraho, Odette.  May I take your photo?” all the while pantomiming with my camera.  My Kinyarwanda vocabulary is limited to a few pleasantries.  I needn’t have worried though.  Her infectious smile lights the room; words seem unnecessary.  The goiter on Odette’s neck resembles a lumpy grapefruit.  With the help of a local interpreter, I come to understand that Odette and her younger sister have walked for 3 days to Gitwe Hospital in hopes that she will be selected to have this life changing surgery performed by American doctors and nurses donating their time and skill with Medical Mission for Children.  She made this identical trek last year, but by the time she arrived, the schedule was already filled.  Her enthusiasm and gratitude are palpable.  Odette recounts her difficulty breathing when she carries her burdens on her head as well as when she sleeps.  Odette asks to see her “before” photo as I head for the door.  She wants to remember what she used to look like. Somehow I think she will be excited to see the “after” photo as well.

Odette, before
Odette, after

Surgery Day 1 – “Hitting Their Stride”

Monday, March 11, 2013

Today had fits of rain so intense that you might liken the downpours to being doused with a fire hose.  The power comes and goes, but the team is adept at rolling with the havoc mother nature wreaks…perhaps the most difficult to contend with is not in the OR, but back at the guest house where showering involves icy water in an inky stall after a walk home along the dusty path.  Despite the unpredictable weather, the team has hit its stride and each case proceeds with remarkable efficiency.  Doctors adapt to each situation/complication by tapping into their bank of experience and also knowing the depth of the professionals supporting them. The OR nurses anticipate the surgeons’ needs and the Post-Operative nurses are an incredible balance of professionalism and warm empathy. One patient that was vomiting after surgery necessitated a return visit to the hospital after the team had settled back into the guest house and eaten dinner.

A nice reminder of what an incredible impact MMFC has on the lives of the patients occurred today.  A beautiful Rwandan woman introduced herself to me.  She said that she had received an operation on her goiter at MMFC’s Rwanda mission in 2012.  She exclaimed that it was truly a miracle!  She was hopeful that the doctors might consider helping her with her arthritis.  Our mission is goiters so unfortunately this will not be possible, but it was wonderful to see a patient thriving twelve months later. Obviously the gratitude survives and lingers even after the team heads back to their practices in their home countries.

Immacule Mukandutiye, who returned a year later to show her gratitute to MMFC for the life-changing surgery she received in 2012

Surgery Day 3

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

There is quiet calmness to the start of day 4.  The team stayed up late into the night discussing a patient named Liliane after a return visit to the hospital.  Today’s schedule includes another very large goiter, although not as large as the previous day.  Many of the previous patients that had drains will be released today. There is much to celebrate today as patients head home and return to their families.  The surgeries just seem to click off at a sustained, even pace.  The patients go to the post-operative room and then head up to the wards.  The most angst today does not seem to be focused in the operating room, but rather in that breezeway where the patients have been waiting all week for their chance to have their name added to the surgery schedule.  Given our departure timing, it is apparent that we will be unable to operate on everyone. Dr. Dhingra does another pass through to prioritize the women and tighten up the schedule. Unfortunately, some that have been waiting will need to be turned away.  Naturally, some restrained emotions well up in the women that need to head home.  They have been given instructions on medications and ultrasounds and reminded to return next year for the mission in 2014.

A treat awaits the team tonight… Our in-country partner, Vianney, has graciously arranged a brisk hike to his family home here in Gitwe and a delicious Rwandan barbecue dinner.  The team gathers around the fire in the courtyard and listens as the young neighborhood children serenade us.  We head home and hit the sack… it’s a 5:30am breakfast and back to the hospital.

Surgery Days 4 and 5

Thursday, March 14 and Friday, March 15, 2013

Music is a large part of these next few days.  We’ve been serenaded by the small school children around a fire.  We’ve heard locals harmonizing in halls and churches on our walk back to the guesthouse and the faint sounds of the Beatles can be heard when entering the operating room.  Spirits are high. We are over the hump.  The first patient is prepped and in the OR by 6:30am. There is a sense of familiarity and camaraderie among professionals now.  A minor hiccup comes after lunch, when one of the patients exhibits signs of hypertension.  They decide to cancel her surgery and one more name to the schedule. Being flexible is critical to our success.

The upbeat, almost festive mood carries over to dinner.  The team is energized by the impact they have made in a short amount of time.

Friday is our last day of surgery with two straightforward cases.  The doctors and nurses complete their mission and discharge all but Liliane and the last two patients. Now it’s time to take apart the operating and recovery rooms.  It’s bittersweet as we pack it all in the bus and head to Kigali. We will scatter back to the places we all call home (SF Bay Area, New York, Boston and Washington, DC) richer for having had this experience. Murakoze, Rwanda!

By the end of the last surgery day, the team had finished 25 goiter cases. One of those patients was Liliane, a slim, attractive 38 year old Rwandan with clear skin and close cropped hair.  When you first meet Liliane you can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the enormous goiter that has taken over her neck and wraps up the side of her face to her ear.  Liliane’s goiter will prove to be the most complicated and challenging surgery of the mission here in Rwanda. She will be in surgery all day and spend the night with a doctor on vigil in the recovery room.  She will be the last MMFC patient discharged from Gitwe.

It was sheer luck that Liliane made her way to Gitwe this year.  If not for the fact that she has a friend with a goiter who heard about the American doctors coming to Gitwe to donate their services from an employee of Gitwe, Liliane would have been unaware of this unique opportunity and forced to continue to live with this honey dew melon sized growth on her neck and face.  As it was, Liliane has seven children at home and walked 6 hours to Gitwe.  While all of the operations performed by the doctors here are life altering, Liliane’s change in appearance is the most dramatic.  Despite the pain associated with the recovery, her gratitude is deep and authentic.

In addition to the incredible marathon performance by the doctors and nurses in the OR, I’d also like to highlight the incredible compassion and care given to Liliane by the recovery room nurses.  A couple days after her operation, Liliane was back in the post-op room for observation and care.  This was rough going for sure…as much as she wanted to mask the pain she was in, even the casual observer recognized that wince.  The two nurses knew she was in need of a boost.  One went to her secret stash and pulled out a brand new pair of fuchsia and blue flip flops and slid them on her feet.  She tucked her old, worn-out ones in a canvas tote that she filled with socks and a “Race for Survival” t-shirt.  She slid three red, white and blue beaded bracelets on her arm to accompany the hospital one she got when she was admitted.  She embraced her shoulders and let her know she understood that this was difficult. The exchange was touching and just what Liliane needed.

Another patient treated was Joseph, who was hard to miss in the sea of women waiting to be examined.  Although he is 18 years old, he emits an aura of youthful innocence.  His slight frame reinforces the notion that he is younger than his years suggest.  His openness and his understanding of the English language allow a playful banter between doctor and patient.  Dr. Dhingra teases Joseph about the female patients having been very brave and stoic when it came to accepting injections in their neck without so much as a flinch.  Joseph carried the burden of proving that the men could also tolerate this somewhat scary needle coming at their neck! If this was not enough pain to endure, Joseph had been clearing the land with a machete a couple days before and had accidentally whacked his knee open and needed a tetanus shot as well.

I met Joseph’s mother in the recovery room as well as later on the ward.  She was anxious to tell me that Joseph was a diligent student. She kept repeating ‘murakoze’ or ‘thank you’ for the surgery and care Joseph received.  We will miss that disarming smile and bravado!

Rwanda is known fondly as the Land of a Thousand Hills and a Million Smiles.  Let’s continue with that theme and consider the 2013 MMFC Rwanda “by the numbers.”

The mission included:

  • 13 health care professionals from 3 US states and the District of Columbia as well as one local Rwandan
    • 2 surgeons and 2 surgical residents
    • 2 anesthesiologists and 2 anesthesiologist residents
    • 2 surgical techs
    • 1 operating room nurse circulator
    • 2 post anesthesia recovery room nurse practitioners
  • 1 in-country partner
  • 1 MMFC alumni Ob/Gyn
  • 2 local translators
  • 1 administrator
  • 44 pieces of luggage carrying supplies and equipment traveled across 10 time zones and over 9,400 miles as the crow flies
    • 1 lost preppy pink suitcase finally surfaced after 3 days time and finally made its way to Gitwe
    • 1 very happy team member after its arrival
  • 1 tire blew out traveling from Kigali to Gitwe
  • 25 life-altering surgeries were performed on:
    • 24 women and 1 young man
  • 71 years old was the oldest patient
  • 17 years old was the youngest patient
  • >850 grams was the largest goiter removed
  • 7 hours and 10 minutes was the longest time spent in the operating room (surgery time was shorter)
  • 50 minutes was the shortest time spent in the operating room
  • 3 days walking was the longest distance traveled by a patient to have this surgery performed
  • 1 hugely inspirational human spirit for whom this mission is dedicated – Dr. Greg Feldman.  Numbers seem insufficient in quantifying the lasting impact Greg had on MMFC, the doctors and nurses, the patients, and the community of Gitwe.  Not unlike the red dusty earth of Rwanda that found it’s way under our skin, between our toes and permanently enmeshed in our clothes, so too has Greg’s spirit.  Each morning as we crossed the threshold of Gitwe Hospital we passed his memorial tree – one that has taken root and is thriving. We felt his presence each day and were grateful for the reminder and inspiration to be the best version of our selves. Peace and Murakoze, Greg!

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Cleft, Microtia, Dental Mission Antigua, Guatemala |Jan, 2013

In January, Dr. Noah Siegel led a 23-member volunteer team to work at the Hermano Pedro Hospital in Antigua, Guatemala. This experienced and highly skilled team ran four operating rooms for five days completing 65 surgical procedures in total, including 37 cleft lips and palates, 24 microtia surgeries and 4 other procedures. The MMFC dental team provided dental care to 65 patients. Over 200 children were screened in preparation for and during the mission.  Special thanks to our outstanding in-country team: Dr.Guillermo Gaitan, Padre, Odra and Anabela. It is a privilege to work with you every year on behalf of the children in Guatemala who would otherwise have no access to this medical care. Finally, a shout out to Terry Calvillo, Bethany Anderson, RN, Natalie Harris, RN and Xiomara who worked together to ensure that all of MMFC’s equipment and supplies reached their destination prior to the start of the mission – no small feat!

Dr. Siegel, all of us at MMFC and most particularly, the children and families of Guatemala who so desperately needed our surgical intervention – and who now have an opportunity to live healthy and dignified lives, want to express our sincere gratitude to the Lefkofsky Family Foundation for sponsoring this mission. The reverberations from your commitment and generosity will affect generations to come, and our respect cannot be overstated.

Until 2014.

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Cleft and Dental Mission Quito, Ecuador|Oct, 2012

In October 2012 Dr. Rafael Barrera and his 24 member volunteer team traveled to Quito Ecuador. This incredible volunteer team screened over 180 patients and performed over 100 surgeries in five days at the Hospital un Canto a la Vida: 35 lip and palate cases, 35 dental procedures under general anesthesia and 40 scar revisions. Many of the children traveled by canoe and horseback from the southern basin of the Amazon to Quito in hopes of being able to receive surgery. Our many thanks to our local coordinator Mary Kay Barrera for her hard word year round to pull this mission off. It could not happen without her! MMFC is also grateful to our dedicated sponsors and mission supporters: NSLIJ – Long Island Jewish Medical Center; Mr. Fuad Dassum; Mr. Pedro Alvarez; Mrs. Susana Alvarez; Mr. Alberto Rosales; Claudio Crespo, Patricia Jarrin; and Leonidas Naranjo.

This year we also had some wonderful translators, and our thanks goes to Bernardo Viteri, Matias Viteri, Margarita Barrera, Estefania Castro, Diego R. Barrera, Miguel Andrade, Maria Paula Rivadeneira. Together, this group of talented and generous people worked together to help so many Ecuador children in need – a true testament to teamwork.

All photographs were taken by team member Roberta Anslow.

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Cleft Mission Leyte Tacloban, Phillipines| Nov, 2012

In November 2012, Dr. Arnold Lee and Dr. Pratik Pradhan led a 13 member volunteer medical team from the US and the UK. The team performed 40 surgical procedures during 4 surgical days at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center. Our gratitude to each and every team member – you were a stellar team in every respect.  We would also like to thank Dr. Rhiza Valdez and the Maharlika Foundation for coordinating this mission in-country and for partnering with MMFC to provide much needed cleft surgeries in the Philippines.

We are also extremely grateful to the mission sponsors whose generosity made this mission possible: Nanci Gilmore, Brian Greene, Johnson & Johnson, Efstathia Mihelis; and the very special employees at ENT Specialists, Inc. We would also like to give a special shout out to Dr. John Pook and BMI Healthcare UK for the support they provide to MMFC from “across the pond.”  The UK based NursingTimes.net published this article highlighting team member Ellen Paniamogan’s participation on the mission which brought her back to her homeland.

And as always, we left our hearts and best wishes with the children, their families and the wonderful hospital staff  – until we see you again in November 2013!

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Cleft Mission Batangas, Phillipines|Feb, 2013

Adelle Franchek interned with MMFC during her last semester at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA during the fall 2012. She assisted in coordinating logistics for our medical and dental missions. Her internship with MMFC culminated in her participation in the February 2013 surgical mission to Batangas, Philippines led by Dr. David Kaufman. Here are Adelle’s observations and stories.

Sunday, February 10, 2013: Screening Day

Screening Day at Taal Polymedic Hospital and Medical Center began in the afternoon after the MMFC staff arrived in Taal, Batangas.  Dr. Eric Tenorio welcomed us into his medical center along with the rest of the Taal Polymedic staff.  The screening room was filled with about 40 patients and their family members.

The screening process for the patients and their families involved meeting with the doctors and nurses who examined the patients.  The parents were given documentation about cleft lip and palate and during the consultations the parents received information about pre- and post-operative details.

The patients ranged in ages from infancy to young adulthood.

Monday, February 11, 2013: Surgical Day #1

The first surgical day began with patient Tristan, age four with a weight of 11kg.  His parents, Ruby and Edwardo shared Tristan’s story while he was undergoing his procedure.  The family lives in the village of San Piro, Balayan, which is located in the province of Batangas.  Edwardo works as a construction laborer.  In order to get to Taal Polymedic for Tristan’s surgery the family had to travel by tricycle to a bus station and then take a two hour bus ride into Taal.  Thanks to the wonderful nursing team at Taal Polymedic and the MMFC staff Tristen had his cleft lip corrected.  His parents are truly grateful to the doctors and nurses and look forward to seeing Tristen’s lip correction.

This is Loudes Miggy (M).  He is two years of age and had a cleft palate before undergoing a reconstructive procedure at Taal Polymedic.  In order to reach Taal Polymedic, Lourdes and his parents, Jincki and Kenneth, had to travel by tricycle and Jeepne from their home of Balebe, Batangas.  Kenneth works as a barber in Balebe and both he and Jincki are very grateful to the Taal Polymedic and MMFC team for providing their son with the reconstructive surgery that will improve Lourdes’ quality of life.  This surgery was a great success and the MMFC team did a wonderful job providing expert care to this little boy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2013: Surgical Day #2

Vince Archie came to Taal Polymedic last year during the MMFC medical mission in order to get his cleft lip repaired.  Vince Archie also had a cleft palate which was not able to be corrected at that time.  We are very pleased to see Vince Archie again this year, when he returned to have a procedure to correct his cleft palate.  MMFC loves to see patients return in order to get all of the life-changing procedures that they need.  Vince Archie’s mother told us that Vince Archie has been doing quite well since last year and is thankful to those at MMFC who allow for Vince Archie to return and receive this second procedure.  The MMFC team was happy to see Vince Archie return and now both cleft deformities have been successfully corrected.

This is Jaypee.  He has undergone both a cleft palate and lip surgery during this MMFC mission.  Jaypee and his family are very grateful to have this surgery because before this time he couldn’t go to school because he was teased by his classmates due to his condition.  Prior to this surgery Jaypee would help his father, Lazaro, work the sugar cane fields as well as helping his mother, Josephine, tend to his younger siblings.  Jaypee and his family travelled eight kilometers to come to Taal Polymedic for the corrective surgery for his cleft lip and palate.  Now that his lip and palate have been corrected Jaypee will consider going back to school and continue his education.  This surgery was life changing for both Jaypee and his entire family because it will provide Jaypee with new opportunities.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Today marks the end of a truly wonderful and successful mission.  It was a very busy day, with 5 surgeries, two lip and three palate, as well as four obturator cases to follow.  In total the team completed 24 surgeries.  All of outcomes were great and will surely lead to beautiful smiles for all the children who underwent a procedure.

Today was a uniquely special day because it also marked the final surgery and mission for longtime volunteer (and board member), Dr. John Pook.  Although this was a bittersweet time the team worked well and everyone enjoyed working alongside Dr. Pook.  After his last and final case the MMFC and Taal Polymedic team surprised Dr. Pook with a cake.  Immediately following the presentation of a cake to Dr. Pook, the entire MMFC team was surprised by all of the patients and their families who warmly thanked them for their time and services this past week.  It was a very joyous time and many pictures were taken.  It was the perfect culmination to a wonderful mission which will hopefully occur each and every year for many years to come.  The MMFC team thanks Taal Polymedic and the doctors and hosts who helped to coordinate this very successful mission.

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Cleft Mission Gitwe, Rwanda|Sept, 2012

From left to right: Denny Snyder, Yesiana Pizarro, Kathy Gantz, Prabhatk, K Carrello, Tammy Wang, Claudia Benkwitz, Michelle Johnson, Tracey O’keeffe, Veronia Sherwood, Gloria Hicks, and Byron Henry.

Yesiana Pizarro-Munoz  is a valued MMFC Volunteer. She serves as Event Coordinator for our Annual Boston Gala and manages our cleft database.  In September 2012 she traveled with MMFC as the Administrator on our Rwanda Cleft mission.  

On September 14th Medical Missions for Children (MMFC) departed on its second mission this year to Gitwe, Rwanda – this time to restore lips and palates. Rwanda is located in central east Africa and few degrees south of the equator.

This mission was special; the whole team was full of first time visitors to Rwanda, with the exception of our Lead surgeon, Dr. Denny Snyder who has been to Rwanda a dozen of times, everyone was really looking forward to the experience. The team traveled about 24 hrs. to get to Gitwe.  After close to 24 hours of travel we arrived in Kigali on Saturday night at 8pm. We moved through customs and met up with Vianney, our site coordinator.  The bus drive to Gitwe, our final destination, took about two and a half hours; part of the trip was on paved highway, and the other on unpaved road, which was very bumpy and full of dust. About half way into our drive the bus suddenly stopped and everything turned pitch black. Thanks to our iPhones and quick flash lights there was light once again. Fortunately, the driver was able to start the bus but our head lights burned out.  Because we were in the middle of nowhere, with no police around, we were able to continue driving by flash light!!We were thankful to our co-pilot John for holding the flash light for over forty five minutes to lead the way.

Jean De Dieu was one of our first patients on Sunday morning. He was very quiet but seemed very excited and persistent to get his surgery done. We believe he waited most of the night at the hospital gate because when we arrived and he was the first person in line to see us.

Jean De Dieu is only 15 years old; he lives in Muhanga, Nyabinoni which is about 4 hours from Gitwe. Jean was very determined for such a young man.  He worked hard for the past three months to save money to pay for him and his mother’s transportation to Gitwe. He worked during the day feeding two cows and went to school in the afternoon.

Jean enjoys school very much, especially his teachers as they are very loving to him. He also enjoys his classmates but sometimes he feels lonely because some kids don’t like to play with him because of his deformity.

Jean expressed that his surgery will make such a difference in his life as kids will look at him differently. Yet he assures me that he will continue to be the same person on the inside, only his face will change. Most important he will focus on his studies.

Damoscene Nzabahimana is an Orphan from Kibuye. Damoscene lost both of his parents this year. When his parents passed away he had to drop out of school because he didn’t have any money for supplies, he was in 3rd grade.  Damoscene decided to travel to Gitwe to find some work; he is staying with the village pastor and working at night delivering water.  He is the youngest of his 4 siblings, all of whom left behind in Kibuye.

Damoscene actually found us by coincidence; he bumped into Vianney, as he was asking him for help in finding work. Vianney had to actually send a search party to find him because he lost him in the crowd.  After his surgery Damoscene will go back to school, and Vianney will keep track of him making sure he stays in school.

We also had the privilege to meet Jean Paul, who was previously operated on by Dr. Snyder 2.5 years ago in March 2010. . He was a breath of fresh air; despite his condition he was warm, sweet, and happy. Jean spent the whole day with the team taking pictures, enjoyed lunch with us, and got to keep one of Dr. Snyder’s favorite surgical hats.

These are just some of the children the MMFC was able to help while in Gitwe in September. In total, the team performed 25 life-changing lip and palate surgeries. Since MMFC began traveling to Rwanda 6 years ago, MMFC has operated on hundreds of children and has provided medical and dental care to thousands.

MMFC’s missions to Rwanda are funded in part by the Greg Feldman, MD, Memorial Surgical Missions to Rwanda Fund. To find out more about Greg’s Fund, please visit our website at http://mmfc.org/Events/FeldmanFund/GregFeldmanMemFund.htm

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Surgical Dental Mission Antigua, Guatemala|June 16-23, 2012

The MMFC June Guatemala Team (L to R: Mohani Ramsahai; Andrew Shayne, Sam Seymour; Charles Badaoui; Gary Ruggera; Piero Caruso; Lorelei DeGracia; Bob Ward; Karin Oomen; Patsy Donlan; Deb Rideout; and EJ Wech. Missing from photo: Reza Jarrahy)

Sam Seymour is a graduate of Vassar College and currently performing research at an immunology lab in San Diego, California. He served as administrator on the June trip to Antigua, Guatemala – his first trip with MMFC – and is hoping to pursue a career in medicine. Here is Sam’s story.

Mid June, a small contingent of thirteen volunteers made their way to Antigua, Guatemala for what was MMFC’s second mission to Guatemala this year – a follow up to the first trip in January. This was not only the first time that MMFC has sent a team to the same location twice in one year, but also the first time that MMFC volunteers shared the surgical ward of Santo Hermano Pedro Hospital with another medical team for the week. Both teams did an excellent job of working together not only to accommodate one another’s needs, but also to augment one another’s work.

The MMFC team arrived in Guatemala City late Saturday afternoon to a warm, sunny day. Confronted by new customs regulations that had literally been implemented that day, the team spent hours attempting to release bags of pharmaceutical drugs and equipment. Eventually, we left the supplies behind with the hopes of retrieving the bags another day. With team leader Charlie Badaoui guiding the way, we wound our way through a myriad of taxi drivers and vendors selling plastic bags of chilled water from dusty backpacks, and hauled ourselves into a large passenger van bound for the city of Antigua.

After a relatively smooth two-hour ride through Guatemala City’s dense rush-hour traffic, the shocks of our passenger van were suddenly strained to capacity as we reached the limits of Antigua’s ancient cobblestone streets. Antigua – once the capital of the Spanish Central American territory – is a prosperous city rich in history. However, despite a thriving tourism industry and frequent visits from international students wishing to immerse themselves in Spanish-speaking culture, many of Antigua’s surrounding villages are subject to extreme poverty. The reality of life in villages throughout Guatemala is that reaching western medical care is typically a multi-day ordeal. Such care requires advanced planning and funding, not only for the care, but also for travel, food, and lodging. Combined with inadequate or insufficient nutrition, these factors lead to frequent occurrences of underdeveloped facial structure in infants who will never receive needed surgical attention. The incidences of cleft lip and cleft palate in Guatemala cause nutritional, hygienic, and social issues among the 1,000’s of untreated individuals.

On our first full day in Antigua, the MMFC team performed rigorous screenings of over 75 patients from far and wide. Over the next five days, with two dedicated operating rooms, the surgical and dental teams performed an incredible 59 procedures. For a small team to treat nearly 80% of the individuals seeking treatment while maintaining quality patient care demanded flawless, efficient communication between team members. From the perspective of an individual one-step removed from the actual medical practice, I found myself in awe at the seamless transition for each patient from pre-op, to the operating room, to the recovery floor, and finally to their bed in the hospital ward. Watching the MMFC clinicians at work was truly inspiring.

Members of the surgical and dental team take a break (L to R: Bob Ward; team leader Charlie Badaoui; Reza Jarrahy).

Sandra was one of the patients to receive treatment from the expert MMFC team. Born in February of this year (2012), she was just a little shy of 5 months old at the time of her surgery.

Sandra found the surgeons performing the screening very amusing.

Sandra – the youngest of five children – and her parents hail from the outskirts of Salamá, a city of approximately 40,000 people in the department of Baja Verapaz in central Guatemala. Sandra’s father works long days harvesting a variety of crops, most notably cardamom, (Guatemala is the world’s top producer/exporter of cardamom). The family’s initial contact with MMFC and their trip to the hospital were facilitated through Partners for Surgery, an international nonprofit health advocate with a presence in many developing nations. MMFC also relies on the excellent outreach, patient education and recruitment of TESS Unlimited. While Sandra’s condition was not a medical emergency, PIH determined that an ambulance would be the most reliable and efficient means for Sandra and her parents to make the trek from Salamá to Antigua. Sandra’s surgery was without a hitch. She left the hospital the day following her surgery with a giggle, as bright-eyed as ever.

Sandra, post-surgery and right after a long nap 

It was a privilege to be a part of an operation offering highly-skilled labor at no cost to patients; labor which, until seen first-hand, can be hard to recognize as life-changing. After what is typically  an hour of surgery, MMFC patients leave the OR with life-changing results allowing them to lead their lives to the fullest.

 MMFC will return to Antigua, Guatemala in January 2013 and again in June 2013.

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Thyroid Mission Gitwe, Rwanda| Mar, 2012

Administrator Aditya Mahalingam-Dhingra traveled with his father, MMFC Team Leader and Surgeon Dr. Jag Dhingra to Rwanda last month where the volunteer team performed 26 successful thyroidectomies. These are some of his observations.

The MMFC Team arrived in Kigali Friday night – and I was most surprised by the fact that we were literally bringing everything with us – equipment, supplies, instruments, and medications. We arrived with over a dozen oversized duffel bags and at least a half dozen large boxes and hard covered pelican carrying cases.

On Saturday we packed everything into a large van that resolutely bounced us along the road from Kigali to Gitwe – an arduous drive that took 3 hours.  We arrived to find an operating room that was empty save for a large overhead lamp. We quickly filled the room with the duffels,  boxes, and arrays of disassembled devices. The low chatter of our team accompanied the hours of unpacking, sorting, assembline, and testing. By the end of the day, when we retired early and exhausted, we had a functioning OR and PACU, a table full of neatly arranged medications, and a list of patients — culled from the dozen or more who had been waiting in the hospital’s halls all day to be screened by our surgeons — who would be operated on the next day.

The sudden apparition of our functioning little three-room base of operations, like a foreign organ transplanted onto the first floor of Gitwe’s welcoming rural hospital, was a wonder to me. Most amazing of all, even more so than when, two days into our mission, I was able to get the printer to spit out in navy blue ink (the black cartridge was empty) my own halting French translation of our medical team’s post-op care instructions, was how quickly and efficiently a routine was established. The team woke, breakfasted, and deployed to their rooms, patients cycled through, and by the end of the day new patients had been screened and the next day’s OR schedule was ready for printing. Four days into the mission the MMFC team had successfully finished twenty-six cases.

I now have an even greater appreciation for the humanitarian work my father and his MMFC colleagues do. It is a monumental undertaking that starts with deciding what supplies and equipment need to be taken to the work site, packing, carrying everything with us, unpacking, setting up, performing the surgeries, packing up, and carrying everything home. Everyone on this mission needed to help out wherever and whenever needed – and everyone did. I am grateful for this opportunity to meet and work with such dedicated and skilled professionals.

Finally, I want to share what a poignent and special moment it was when the team gathered around the tree that was planted last year in March 2011 in memory of an MMFC colleague and volunteer  surgeon, Greg Feldman. I never met Greg but he clearly had a tremendous impact on the hospital, the village of Gitwe, and each and every MMFC volunteer who had worked with him in March 2010.  The missions to Gitwe will now be officially known as the Greg Feldman, MD Memorial Surgical Missions to Rwanda.  For more information on the fund set up by Greg’s family in his honor, please visit the MMFC website.

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Dental Mission Angeles City, Philippines|Feb 10-18, 2012

Click here to watch MMFC’s  new 4 minute video 2012 MMFC Angeles City, Philippines .

MMFC sent a 13 member volunteer medical team to Angeles City from February 10-18, 2012 to work at the Dee Hwa Liong Foundation Medical Center, a private hospital owned by Timothy Paul llanos Dee and his family.  This was MMFC’s 3rd annual mission to Angeles City and it continues to grow in scope and impact each and every year. This year for the first time we conducted a dental clinic.

MMFC screened over 150 children, performed 51 surgical procedures (36 of which were cleft lip and/or palate) and ran a 3 day dental clinic led by Dr. Fortune Vardeman where we treated 144 patients. Our MMFC speech pathologist also worked with an astounding 56 patients. Of these, 20 patients received 45 minute – 1 hour long speech therapy sessions and 36 patients received pre-op speech/feeding evaluations with post-op visits and education.

It was an amazing effort by the entire volunteer team – way to go!

One of the in-country volunteers and alumni of HFA Batch 83, Emily Turla, spoke to the families of each of our patients to learn a little bit more about their lives, interests and hopes for the future. We would like to share some of their stories with you here.

Michael Vincent is in the second grade. He was left by his biological mother when he was only a month old. Luckily for Michael, he was adopted by July Rafael. July is a  hairdresser, dressmaker and caterer. Michael lovingly calls his adopted father “PAPA LY”.

July learned about the medical mission through a family friend who had seen an MMFC poster at the Holy Rosary Parish Church in Angeles City. Michael is excited to return to his family and school with his new “fixed lip”.

Dan Jimboy is the second of 2 children of Nicanor and Mary Grace Ledesma. His parents are separated. His mother is a teacher at Moncada, Tarlac.  Dan Jimboy finished his secondary education but refused to continue his college education because of his cleft palate condition. He had his cleft lip operation when he was only 8 months old.

They learned about the medical mission last 2011 through their neighbors who were patients then at Dee Hwa Liong while the 2011 medical mission was ongoing. They, however, weren’t able to make it to the surgical week. Thankfully they we able to make it this year. While Dan’s age prevents him from having a cleft palate surgery with a positive outcome, MMFC was able to repair his lip and fit him with an obturator that will help him with eating and speech. Dan now says he will consider attending college.

Jackilyn is a beautiful 9 year old cleft lip & palate patient from Candaba, Pampanga. She is the 2nd to the youngest of 11 children of Bong and Joselyn Estacio. She likes school and candy.

Sadly, her mother died 6 yrs ago from cervical cancer. Her father, BONG, buys and sells junk  or as we call it here “bakal-bote”.  Her older brothers also work to help their father support the family.  Jackilyn is presently under the care of of  Ms. Nerissa Gonzales, a family neighbour.

Both Jackilyn and her younger brother were born with cleft deformities. A couple of years ago, the family heard of a free cleft repair clinic and her younger brother was able to get the repair, but only one family member was able to go.  After their mother died of cancer six years ago, he was adopted by family friends.  a family friend who wasn’t able to have children.

Jackilyn’s caretaker, Ms. Gonzalez heard about this medical mission when it was announced at her church during services and told Jackilyn’s brother to bring her, and he did. Jackilyn’s brother said that she stays in a lot, only going out for school or quick errands but doesn’t like to go out much because of her cleft.  MMFC performed lip surgery on Jackilyn and is confident that her life will now change for the better.

Anthony is five years old and the youngest of 3 children of Lulu and Toto from Nueva Ecija. Angeline is 13 and their oldest. They earn a living as farmers.  Anthony, Angelina and their brother Bernardo have been MMFC patients since 2010. This is Anthony’s 3rd operation.  Angeline had a cleft lip operation in 2011 was fitted this year with an obturator.

Jhendel will soon be 2 years old. He is the second of 2 children of Jelsa, a single mom who works as a restaurant server/waitress. She has always been on a continuous look out for medical missions who can operate her son. She learned of MMFC medical mission through her relatives. She believes that Jhendel will now have the same opportunities as all other children.

John Lloyd is 6 months old and the second of 2 children of Jenny and Alvin Cunanan, both farmers from Nueva Ecija. They learned of the medical mission through their relatives, LULU and Augusto Dela Cruz, whose children Anthony, Bernardo and Angeline have been our patients since 2010.

Rafael is 3 months old and the youngest of 3 children of Peaches and Rommel. They learned about the medical mission through the PORAC HEALTH CENTER. His parents cannot believe how lucky Rafael is to receive this free surgery.

Ace is 19 years old and the second of 2 children of the late Dulsora and Verlyn Dudoc. HE hails from SAMAR province and travelled to Angeles City upon the advise of his aunt who resides  in Mountain View, Angeles City when she learned about the MMFC surgical mission. He wishes he had been able to get this surgery earlier in life, it would have made many things easier, but he is grateful to have been selected to receive the surgery this year.

Chan-Leo is 4 years old and the second of 2 children of Antonette, a single mom who works part time as laundry woman. Chan Leo had his lip repaired by MMFC in 2011 and returned this year to have his palate repaired.

Angel is almost 2 years old. She first had her lip operated on in April 7, 2010 (at only 1 month old) in Iloilo with another medical mission group.  After a week her wound opened up and has not healed well.

Her parents found out about MMFC’s when her Godmother had her medical check-up a Dee Hwa Liong Hospital and saw MMFC’s tarpaulin regarding the medical mission. Her mother is very grateful for MMFC and this surgery.

MMFC would like to thank our in-country volunteer and, in particular, Tim Dee, Fortune Vardeman, Judith Feliciano, Candy Ledesma, Dr. Canlan, the OR staff led by Carlos Ulysses Ramos and the Holy Family Academy Batch 83. We are also extremely grateful to our mission funders Dr. Lisa Molin, Foundation 14 and hundreds of loyal MMFC donors whose $10, $25 and $50 contributions ensured that this mission happened and that it was the success it deserved to be. We thank each of you for the part you played in bringing this much needed surgical care to some needy and very deserving Filipino children.

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Cleft Mission Phalodi, Rajasthan, India| Jan 27-Feb 4, 2012

Scott R. Chaiet, MD is a resident in the Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery Division of the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. He joined MMFC in January for our 5th surgical trip to Phalodi, Rajasthan, India. Scott’s participation was made possible through AAO-HNSF, the American Association of Otolaryngologists and Head Neck Surgery Foundation and the generous financial support of the Alcon Foundation. We are proud to welcome Scott to MMFC and to share his words with you.

There once was a woman who grew up in the poor northwest state Rajasthan, India about 300km from the Pakistani border, who was granted a chance to move to North America with her best friend where they would both attend medical school, establish prosperous careers at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and even work in a makeshift laboratory space above an Ohio slaughter house to harvest pig pancreatic islet cells for research. In a selfless move, Kanti Jain (her family name for the obscure religion) and her friend Shareen would give up their careers to return to their home of Phalodi to take over a small clinic Kanti’s sister had started before succumbing to cancer. The clinic would evolve into a hospital with dormitory space to house poor family members, a school for the local poor children and those of other professionals who returned to the region, but even this was not enough for Khanti. She created work training programs to empower women, built a dialysis center, and procured a rural mobile vaccination unit that to date has administered approximately 100,000 vaccines. She also partnered with Medical Missions for Children (MMFC), a Boston-based international charity that sends teams of surgeons around the world to remote areas like Phalodi to provide free cleft surgeries.

It’s difficult to capture the feelings of gratitude, respect, and admiration I have gained for these two women and their extended family who work together, but as I journey home reflecting on a personally successful week, it does not seem worthy to give myself even a small pat on the back or receive a “job well done” in the shadows of Khanti or Shareen.

But the week was truly amazing. As a surgeon, I gained two mentors who gave me 24/7 access to their knowledge of surgical skills and humanitarian aid with some subtle teasing and resident abuse, in exchange for my incessant questions during our 35 procedures over 2 half-days and 3 full-days in the operating room. Farhad Sigari selflessly gives up multiple weeks of his year for MMFC missions, not from a large well-established practice, but from his new solo otolaryngology practice. And Merry Sebilik, an academic Head & Neck Surgeon in Memphis, I can really credit for getting me on this trip (I received a grant from her Academy committee and personally received her words of advice at the 2010 Annual Meeting, not knowing the connection until this week). Merry has renewed my passion for teaching, leadership, humanitarianism, and will probably get credit for inspiring me to make many more surgical trips with MMFC.

Seven other MMFC members led by pediatric gastroenterologist, Helen John-Kelly, MD each helped create a lean mean patient care machine, and took the time to teach the new guy in a remarkable drama-free week that centered on patient care, food, masala chai tea, Kingfisher beer, and more food. 

One child who made a particular impression on me was named Ganesh. I worked with Merry Sebelik on Thursday to repair his bilateral cleft lip. The name Ganesh is one of the Hindi gods that is based on an elephant and is good luck (we even had a stuffed animal Ganesh hanging from the anesthesia machine at the hospital). The boy’s double-clefted smile captured the heart of the whole team and I was lucky to get a few photos with him in his near celebrity status. His sister, also adorable, had her lip repaired one year ago and got her palate closed the day before her baby brother had his lip repaired.

I want to thank my mentor and biggest supporter Ben Marcus and my program for making this trip possible. On behalf of the children of Phalodi who received this life-changing surgery, my deepest gratitite to AAO-HNSF and the Alcove Foundation for funding my participation. I look forward to continuing my humanitarian work with MMFC on many future trips.

Scott Chaiet, MD

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Cleft, Mircotia, and Dental Mission Antigua, Guatemala | Jan 7-14, 2012

In January, Dr. Noah Siegel led MMFC’s Surgical and Dental Teams on our 13th consecutive annual mission to Obras Sociales Hermano Pedro Hospital in Antigua, Guatemala. The 26-member volunteer team hailed from all over the United States. The team screened over 100 patients, ran 4 operating rooms a day on this 5-surgical day mission, and performed 65 surgeries. The dental team provided dental services to an additional 65 children.

MMFC would like to thank Obras Sociales Hermano Pedro for their warm welcome and staunch support. Special thanks to Dr. Guillermo Gaitan, Dr. Ivan Vides, Dr. Claudio Gonzales, Odra Flores, Anabela Morales, Luz Elena, and the entire OR staff, and TESS Unlimited and Partner for Surgery for their outreach and pre-screening efforts on our behalf.

MMFC is deeply grateful to our mission sponsors, Eric and Liz Lefkofsky and the Lefkofsky Family Foundation. Their commitment to children and families around the world is awe-inspiring and we are humbled by their recognition and support. Notable mention also is made to Ms. Mary Fox who believes in and supports her dear friend, Dr. Noah Siegel.

The following are just a few of the many children who have received life-changing and in some instances, life-saving surgery because of our talented and selfless volunteers and our generous and kind-hearted donors. 

Rogiberto, age 9 months

Elsa, age 5 months

Luis, age 4 months

Damaris, 5 months in 2011 when MMFC fixed her lip and this year, and almost 1.5 years when she returned this year for a palate repair.

Britany, age  7 months

Our Microtia team operated on 24 children and young adults. On the last day of our mission, all the pateints, the MMFC team members and the patients’ families gathered for smiles and a group photo – job well done by everyone!

Dr. Charlie Badaoui and two local dental assistants provided dental services to 65 children during the mission. What an accomplishment!

MMFC is proud to work so well with Obras Sociales Hermano Pedro and its OR staff members. This year, MMFC was invited to return to Obras Sociales Hermano Pedro for a second mission this June and every year thereafter. MMFC will continue to perform cleft and microtia surgeries, and has also agreed to provide general plastics surgery and dental services to the 220 mentally and physically challenged residents of the Obras Sociales Hermano Pedro Orphanage. We look forward to returning in 4 months.

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Cleft Mission Danshui, China |Oct 28-Nov 5, 2011

MMFC’s second annual mission to Huiyang People’s Hospital (HPH)  in Danshui, Huizhou City, Huiyang District, Guangdong China  can only be described as superb. MMFC’s 8 member volunteer surgical team screened 44 patients and performed 26 cleft surgeries during this 5 surgical day 1 Operating Room mission.

During this mission, MMFC and HPH also held their Second Annual Surgical and Educational Forum on Congenital Facial Deformities. Over 300 medical professionals attended this well-received seminar.  Dr. Gary Ruggera and Dr. Marc Ehrenpreis presented a lecture on Pediatric Anesthesia – Modern Practice and Methods. They also presented a general lecture and then a series of smaller hand-on workshops on the use of Glidescope as there is one on-site at HPH.  Dr. H. Dennis Snyder presented two general lectures, one on burns and the other on cleft deformities. Dr. Snyder was then joined by Dr. Russell Shu and they jointly presented lectures on operative care for cleft lip and cleft palate patients. Drs. Snyder and Shu also worked directly in the OR with surgeons from HPH.

MMFC extends its deepest appreciation to Suzanne Kavanagh, Julia Yung, Dr. Leo Chen, Dr. Abbie Chen, Peter Chen, Dr. Chen (Dean and Hospital President), Dr. Andy Ho, Alex Li, Shirlet Ng, the Tseng Family (Ricky, Lily, Tony, Thomas and Jennifer), Dr. Chen (Anesthesia Chief), Dr. Leo Chen (Surgeon), Cindy, Huiyang Women’s Federation, and all local government officials.

MMFC is humbled to have received an invitation to return to HCP for a third consecutive year in 2012.

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Cleft Mission Taal, Bantagas, Phillipines | Nov 4-13, 2011

MMFC and BMI Healthcare UK collaborated in 2011 to send an inaugural mission to Taal, Batangas, Philippines. The mission led by Dr. Robert Ward was a success on every level. The facilities at Taal Polymedic Hospital were excellent and the hospital support staff superb. During this five day 1 operatiing room mission, MMFC’s volunteer surgical team performed 19 cleft lip and palate surgeries. MMFC collaborated with a local dentist and paid for obturators to be made and fitted for an additional 6 patients who were not candidates for surgery.

As is the case on every mission, it is the children and their stories that inspire us all to continue this work. Beth Allan, RN, a PACU nurse from Stanford Hospital in California joined MMFC for the first time this past fall on both our China and Philippines missions. She has stayed in touch with a new friend Jean, a nurse at Taal Polymedic Hospital and they both have the following to happily report:

Jahneza Mae Endozo is a 5 year old girl from Sambal Ilaya, Lemery, Batangas.  She had a cleft palate repair and a cleft lip revision.  Her father is Jonamar Endozo a OFW (overseas Filipino worker) and her mother is Amelia Endozo, a house wife caring for her two girls.  Jahneza is the eldest daughter.  She is a very active girl and loves to do anything outdoors and active, but she tends to stay close to home playing with her sister and close cousins as other children tend to tease her because of her condition.  She had stopped going to school for this very reason.  Beth Allen, RN, recently heard from a nurse at Taal Polymedic Hospital that Jahneza is back to school, active & playing with many of her friends outside of school.  She is even getting involved in a play at her church that will perform in front of the congregation.

John Kenneth Punzalan is a 3 year old boy residing in Sinipian, Sta. Theresita, Batangas.  He is the youngest of the five children of Francisco and Mary Jane Punzalan.  His father is an employee at a furniture manufacturer and his mother is a housewife.  John Kenneth (or Kenneth as his siblings call him), is a very active and always happy young man.  He is a little shy to others but not to his 4 siblings, who are very fond of him simply because  he is the youngest.  He is the only one in the family with a cleft lip/palate and his siblings are very protective of him because of it.  MMFC repaired his cleft palate and his family is very grateful.

MMFC is very grateful to Dr. Pacifico (“Pico”) Tuason, Dr. Florianne (“Rhiza” )Valdez, Dr. Eric Tenorio, Dr. Jed Inciong, Paulyn and every member of the in-country Batangas A team.

MMFC is particularly grateful to Dr. John Pook and BMI Healthcare UK for sponsoring this mission. BMI is a premium private health care division with over 70 acute-care private patient hospitals and other facilities in the UK.  BMI has a long history of philanthropic donations and MMFC is grateful to BMI for this most successful collaboration with them. Together BMI and MMFC were able to aid some of the most destitute children of the Philippines.

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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 United.org.

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.

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