International Disaster Relief: Dr. Nina Naidu

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IMG_0958Dr. Nina Naidu was part of the Lebanon Mission 2 team that traveled and served in Saida over seven days earlier this month. This team of three plastic surgeons and one anesthesiologist provided care to over 80 Syrian and Palestinian refugees, including almost 40 surgeries on children who had been directly injured by bomb blasts or other war-related injuries, or was due to their subsequent displacement and poor living conditions.

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According to Dr. Naidu, she had always wanted to do relief work, but it took many years to be able to make the mental and physical commitment to go on such a mission. Grateful for the experience, Dr. Naidu ultimately felt there were many reasons that drove her to complete this mission, including a desire to give back, a feeling of helplessness when reading the news every morning, and simply a need to fulfill some inner calling. While in Lebanon, she was struck by how stoic the children and their parents were; after having witnessed so much trauma in their short lives, undergoing elective surgery under controlled conditions must have seemed comparatively easy. While relief work was ultimately a very personal one for her, Dr. Naidu felt her life had certainly been changed by her experience. It was her greatest hope that the team was able to make the lives of at least a few of their patients a little bit easier.

Landmark Program: Li Ying

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Li Ying Photo 2007 (1)

Li Ying (left) in 2007

We are very excited to welcome Li Ying back to Dallas later this month! Li Ying is a Landmark recipient who originally came to Dallas from China in 2005 after six months of careful planning and prayerful consideration by Dr. Craig Hobar. At the age of six years, Li Ying had the most severe craniofacial cleft that Dr. Hobar had ever seen. Her condition was so rare that no research existed for a recommended course of treatment. After an 11-hour facial reconstruction surgery, Li Ying was well on her way to recovery. A cleft palate repair was completed three weeks later.

Li Ying returned home and became a star student and favored resident of her village. She later returned to Dallas at the age of 11 for nasal reconstruction surgery at Medical City Children’s Hospital. Li Ying, now 17 years old, is returning back to Dallas to receive her final nasal reconstruction surgery by Dr. Hobar, again at Medical City Children’s Hospital.

Li Ying Photo 2011 (1)

Li Ying in 2011

LEAP has coordinated with two co-host families and a proverbial village of supporters to welcome Li Ying and her mother Jin back to Dallas, providing them with a loving, safe environment for the five weeks that they will be here. Her mother still marvels at how Li Ying was selected for a miraculous, life-changing surgery by doctors on the other side of the world.

Li Ying and her mother, Jin, will arrive at 5:00 pm this Thursday, August 25, at DFW Airport on American Airlines Flight 262.  If you would like to greet them at the airport on August 25 or be a part of their story while they are in Dallas, please contact Ashley Winder at ashley@leapmissions.org or (972) 566-6550.

Belize: It Takes a Village

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IMG_6177Story by Raj Godavarthi, LEAP Belize Team Member

Osbin is amongst the cutest little boys we saw. He is nearly two years old and lives in Teakettle, Belize.

Good fortune appeared in Osbin’s life in the form of Zaira, a community health worker in Teakettle. Zaira is also a good friend and neighbor of Osbin’s mother, Nailin. When she heard about LEAP, Zaira encouraged Nailin to seek care for her son—who had a cleft palate.

Filled with hope, Nailin made a plan to travel to our location. She left her three other young children with a neighbor and set off for Orange Walk with a friend to help translate.

Five hours and three buses after leaving Teakettle, the tired threesome were in Orange Walk on Friday for intake and screening. They were told that they could be scheduled for surgery on Sunday, which meant they had to spend two nights in Orange Walk.

“I am so thankful to you all and what you made happen,” Zaira told me today. “You not only arranged for Osbin to have surgery but also helped with a place to stay and took care of that biggest expense.”

Zaira, along with many members of Osbin’s family, arrived on Sunday morning for moral support.

It truly took our global “village” for Osbin to be treated by the LEAP team—from a kind soul in Dallas to a community health worker in tiny Teakettle to the neighbor who watched his siblings—it is truly beautiful to see how the stars aligned for this special little boy.

Belize: Making New Friends

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Story by Raj Godavarthi, LEAP Belize Team Member

IMG_4130Agapito Garcia is by profession a tailor who has worked in Belize City for decades. A few years ago, he moved to Corozal to take up sugar cane farming (although he does go back to Belize City to tailor “men’s, women’s, everything”).

His fifth child Briana was born two years ago in Corozal with a cleft palate. From the start, the family had to brave many challenges—including feeding little Briana with a syringe until they could order special long nipples from Singapore, ONE at a time.

The family drove over on LEAP’s first day on the ground and was extremely happy to have Briana scheduled for surgery the next day. Early Saturday, Dad, Mom, and three daughters arrived, full of cheer and energy. I spoke to 14-year-old Genesis for a while—a smart and mature young lady. I “read her palm” and told her she’d be a doctor some day. She threw back her head, laughed heartily, and said she was not the smart one. We spoke of how if she put her mind to it, the world would conspire to make it happen.

Little Briana meanwhile went around charming her way into everyone’s hearts. Against this backdrop, 7-year old Allison started the systematic process of knowing the details of everyone on the LEAP team, lulling us all into a false sense of security with her cheerful chatter but throwing in a zesty zinger once in a while to remind us of how smart she really is. I tried the “I-predict-you’ll-be-a-doctor-someday” routine, and immediately she asked if she could try a stethoscope. Seeing me hesitate, she said, “Don’t I need to try it to see if I can be a doctor?” A deal was made, a stethoscope obtained, and a child was happy (for a few minutes).

Late afternoon, Briana went into surgery, and Allison’s mood turned somber as she worried about her little sister. Over 2.5 hours, Drs. Evan Beale and Lauren Bourell performed a cleft palate surgery to close off the oral cavity from the nasal cavity, which will help her speak and eat better.

When Briana came out of surgery, Allison could take the wait no more, and she boldly walked into the recovery area. One look at her sister, and the tears came flooding down. She was so worried that her baby sister seemed to have thread on her lips and was crying.

IMG_4126As the nurses and non-medical team members tried to comfort Briana and help her in a post-op recovery room, I sat down to comfort Allison. I explained what anesthesia is, why Brianna needed an IV, and how she didn’t need to worry about the “strings” because they would go away. I told her all would be well, if she smiled and brought energy to everyone like always. Ever the consummate deal maker, she saw an opening and asked, “Can I have two more Slinky toys for my sisters?” We made a “top secret deal” – and I re-read her palm, this time telling her she’d be a leader of her nation someday (and that I believe!).

Briana was out of surgery but needed another IV. I was roped into holding her down. Trust takes a long time to win and almost nothing to lose. Within moments, I became the “bad guy” as far as Briana was concerned. I hate being the bad guy; I took one for the team.

The next morning, I went with the medical team to check in on the family, and my heart broke. Briana was there with her mother, but she refused to say hello or smile – and kept pointing to where I had been responsible for her being poked. I continued to try and win her back as Agapito dropped in to check on his wife and child. I had to step out for a bit, but when I came back, the family was gone.

Disappointed, I started trudging back to the clinic, and a car pulled up beside me on the road. Bubbly Genesis jumped out! Agapito had gone to fetch the rest of the family who had spent the night sleeping in the car some distance away.  A few minutes earlier or later and I would have missed them. It was time for some selfies and pictures. They asked when we would be back, and Agapito told me how inspired Genesis was to be a doctor (our conversation had obviously been relayed). “We are so thankful to you all,” he said before getting back into the car.

Before they drove away, little Briana gave me a smile and a high-five.

I am not a bubbly, friendly, people-loving guy on the outside. However, there are moments that melt even the grumpiest frown away. Here in Belize, I made some new friends: two happy parents who can’t wait to see us all when we return, one child eager to be a doctor, one Little Miss Spitfire that is itching to lead her nation, and one two-year old who trusts me again.

I was part of a team that brought them joy and got paid back with a hundred times as much. Right now, I feel on top of the world.

International Disaster Relief: Lebanon Mission 2

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IMG-20160731-WA0011Currently serving in Sidon, Lebanon, Dr. Adam Hamawy (right) is pictured here evaluating a Syrian child. This young man will be scheduled for a left hand burn scar release. His cousin was also evaluated with a similar burn to his right palm, now currently scheduled for surgery. Wanting to make his best impression, this sweet young man came for evaluation dressed in a collared shirt and tie. At this particular geographic location, there has been a significant need for surgical care for children suffering from war-related injuries. Of the nearly 40 surgeries scheduled this week, all but one are children.

If you would like to help financially support our IDR program, please click below to donate online or contact Ashley Winder at ashley@leapmissions.org or (972) 566-6550.

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Landmark Program: Misha’s Story

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Babies are into everything. Here in the U.S., we have every baby-proofing tool at our fingertips. We can plug every outlet, soften every corner, gate off every stair, and lock every cabinet, and even then, in a split second, our endlessly curious children still manage to find themselves in harm’s way.

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Silvia and Misha

Imagine living as a single mother to three children in the poorest country in the European Union. “Government housing” is a generous term for a shack with a dirt floor. Your kitchen is an open flame. You have only the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet.

This is the reality for Silvia.

Time stood still on the morning her youngest son—at 10 months old—accidentally poured hot oatmeal over himself and sustained devastating burns and hair loss to the left side of his head and face. Over time, she realized the extent of the scarring as well as the insurmountable cost of corrective surgery.

Misha’s story was brought to us through the nonprofit Solo Visions Charities, Inc., which raised funding for their airfare from Moldova to the U.S. so that now three-year-old Misha could be treated through our Landmark Program, which offers hope to children who have no options for care in their home countries.

In partnership with Medical City Children’s Hospital in Dallas, LEAP provides children with the most complex surgical needs living in underserved areas of the world with the ability travel to the U.S. to receive high quality medical and surgical care—at no cost to their families.

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The Doroshchuks | Host Family

In April, Silvia placed her two daughters in the care of church friends and took a leap of faith by stepping onto an airplane (for the first time) bound for Dallas. Upon arrival, the Doroshchuk family greeted her with a warm welcome in familiar Russian.

At his first pre-op appointment, we all immediately fell in love with Misha. Simply through the light in his eyes and the curl of his smile, he conveyed his sweet disposition and curious spirit. Without a full understanding of what was happening, it was evident that Misha was still able to comprehend that he was in the hands of strangers who cared deeply for his well-being.

In the early days, Silvia was amazed at the running water that came out of the bathtub. She marveled at electricity and the use of a refrigerator. Even Misha was thrilled to play with his new toys, despite his extensive surgeries and recovery.

LEAP Founder Dr. Craig Hobar—along with Dr. John Burns, his plastic surgeon colleague—thoughtfully developed a surgical plan for Misha. The first surgery included placement of tissue expanders to stretch his skin; the second surgery involved replacing the scar tissue. Throughout both surgeries, Dr. Burns conducted laser therapy treatment to help further reduce the scarring.

Over the course of three months, Misha remained under the care of Dr. Hobar and Dr. Burns as well as two Russian-speaking host families that provided them with endless compassion in a comforting home environment.

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Dr. Craig Hobar

Misha did very well; his scarring was reduced by 80 percent, and his hairline and ear both returned to normal.

Last week, Silvia stepped back on an airplane to return home with Misha—both with a new outlook on life and uplifted spirits.

“We’re going to give Misha a chance to live a normal life,” said Dr. Hobar. “This injury won’t affect his ability to play with other kids, to go to school, or to integrate into society.”

To learn more about our Landmark Program, click here.

To watch the WFAA news story about Misha, click here.

Landmark Update: Farewell to Misha

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Photo: WFAA

Today is bittersweet as Misha returns home to Moldova. His sweet spirit was captured so well in this WFAA-TV news story! We are grateful to Medical City Children’s Hospital for their invaluable partnership benefiting our Landmark recipients, Dr. John Burns who worked alongside Dr. Hobar in the OR, and the host families who took Misha and his mother in. Most of all, we are fortunate to have such a loving LEAP community that wraps their arms around special children like Misha.

Watch WFAA Story

International Disaster Relief: Meet Dr. Giancarlo McEvenue

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Giancarlo McEvenueDr. Giancarlo McEvenue is a Canadian plastic surgeon in his final year of residency training at the University of Toronto. In January, Dr. McEvenue was part of the surgical team that performed Canada’s first hand transplant. Medical missions and relief work have always been a life goal of his, and he plans on making it a big part of his future career. Dr. McEvenue will join the ISAPS-LEAP Surgical Relief Teams© mission to Lebanon this week. This will be his first mission with LEAP!

International Disaster Relief: Meet Dr. Kevin Healy

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Dr. Kevin Healy with two anesthesia residents in Lima, Peru in December 2015

Dr. Kevin Healy with two anesthesia residents in Lima, Peru in December 2015

Dr. Kevin Healy is an anesthesiologist living in Gainesville, FL. Retired from remunerative practice, he is active in international service, having served at seven hospitals in Trinidad, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Peru, Palestine, and Zimbabwe in the first half of 2016. Dr. Healy will join the ISAPS-LEAP Surgical Relief Teams© mission to Lebanon at the end of the month. Since first participating in the Haiti 2010 disaster relief missions, this will be Dr. Healy’s sixth mission with LEAP.

 

 

 

International Disaster Relief: Meet Dr. Adam Hamawy

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13592778_10154161312272254_6320019660486254566_nDr. Adam Hamawy is a fellowship trained plastic and reconstructive surgeon and owner of Princeton Plastic Surgeons. In addition to being an accomplished surgeon, Dr. Hamawy is an avid photographer. His ability to artistically capture the natural beauty in a landscape or that of a single flower has aided him in doing the very same for each and every one of his patients. At the end of the month, Dr. Hamawy will lead a team of plastic surgeons to serve on a week-long mission to al-Hamshari Hospital in Saida, Lebanon. This will be Dr. Hamawy’s fourth disaster relief surgical mission; he also traveled with our 2008 Belize mission team.