Category Archives: Blog

Haiti Reflections: Dylan Bengtson

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IMG_7932Dylan Bengston is a non-medical volunteer (and cousin to Blake Bengston, who we featured on the blog last summer) who traveled with LEAP on our October mission to Haiti. We caught up with him to learn more about his experience. Here’s what he had to say.

Being a part of the LEAP surgical mission to Haiti was definitely one of the most influential, eye-opening experiences of my whole life. The team I was able to work with and all of the patients were absolutely fantastic, and I feel so blessed to have been a part of it. Everyone on the team was so focused and engaged in our objective while we were there, and it was incredible to learn under so many professionals. I think LEAP is an amazing organization. We were able to have a fun time while still focusing fully on whatever task was at hand. I became close with so many awesome people, and that was definitely one of my favorite parts of the whole experience. I learned so much about not only medicine but also about the people of Haiti and the country itself.

IMG_7840One of my favorite moments was seeing one young patient with a cleft lip and palate who was around 3 months old. Everyone was infatuated with his smile and spirit. and he was just the most uplifting little guy, even while he was going through a tough experience. Overall, it was amazing to see the look on all of the parents’ faces when their kids got out of surgery, and I loved being able to tell them that everything went great and just see the hope in their eyes.

The trip was different than I thought it would be in a good way. In no way at all was the atmosphere stressful or tense at any time, and everyone on the team always had a smile on their face. My heart was very touched with the impact that we were able to have and all of the lives we were able to improve.

Haiti Reflections: Emma & Chris Lamon

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Haiti - Emma with baby-1The Lamon family has been very involved with LEAP for years with three generations of support spanning across our Mission and Landmark programs. Last year, we introduced you to Jane Lamon, who served as Host Mom for beloved Landmark recipient Li Ying, as well as to her son Matt and daughter-in-law Abby. Today, we’re sharing the story of Chris (Jane’s husband) and their daughter Emma in a reflection piece on their volunteer efforts on our most recent surgical mission to Haiti.

Your family has been involved with LEAP for a number of years. What keeps you involved and active?

Chris: Doug Lamon (my dad), our families, and our Landmark organization have supported LEAP over the years. My dad partnered with Craig Hobar to help develop the Landmark Program within LEAP, and it is our desire to be able to take this support to a new level over time.

At the core of LEAP is this steadfast drive to overcome obstacles and provide efficient and caring service based on acceptance, compassion, love, and respect. Through example, this has been inspired by LEAP’s founder and carried forward by the LEAP family of volunteers and staff.

Being a part of this provides a sense of purpose, mental and spiritual health, and happiness. The opportunity to experience this is not so much a responsibility but a privilege.

It also seems like going on a LEAP trip is a bit of a rite of passage for the Lamon kids–is that a fair statement?

Chris:  My dad has experienced trips. He encouraged me to go on a trip. And our children have been on a trip with either Jane or myself and on their own.

The “rite of passage” is not so much the leaving of one group for another – but perhaps it is more about leaving one perspective behind forever for another perspective that provides a much broader understanding of purpose, responsibility, care, giving, and love.

IMG_0949What was it like going on a father/daughter trip to Haiti?

Chris: This is, by far, the best quality time I could have with Emma. We get to experience together the positive impacts of participating in the many eye-opening learnings that are part of being on a mission trip.

Emma: It was an amazing experience having the opportunity to go to Haiti with my dad. We shared a lot of experiences and learned new things together. We created a lot of memories that I will forever hold in my heart.

What was your experience like in Haiti? 

Chris: Working in a busy city in one of the poorest countries in the world leaves a big impression. It is overwhelming how much there is to do and the fact that the economic fundamentals are so broken. But the mission was not to lament those issues but to lift people up and make a positive, selfless impact. That is what I saw the team do extremely well.

What touched my heart is the concern and level of care the team demonstrated and the hope and level of trust the people demonstrated who were handing over their loved ones to the support and surgical teams.

Emma: I knew coming into the trip about the poverty in Haiti. It is one thing to know and another thing to see and experience. I knew about the earthquake, but seeing how it affects people in their day-to-day life is hard to explain.

I also found the people there to be uplifting and spirited. They are thankful for what they have. To see people be so cheerful and happy in these conditions was hard to understand and made me very thankful for my health and family.

The kids in Haiti are very strong, and I was impressed with their willingness to let us help improve their life. The Haitian people touched my heart. They are the most thankful people I have ever met. Being able to talk to them and see what they have overcome in their life and how thankful they are for LEAP touched my heart. LEAP has and continues to change many lives.

And though I was there to help change a life, mine was in turn changed dramatically.

Haiti - Emma with kidsWhat is something from this experience that you will always remember?

Emma: I will always remember the feeling of having the opportunity to scrub into a surgery and help really impact a person’s life for the better. All I could think while in the surgery was how this will impact their life forever. It was the best feeling.

I will also remember the kids and volunteers that I met on that trip. To hear their stories of how they have lived and what has occurred in their life will be with me forever.

Is there anything else you want to say or share about your experience or what you think about LEAP?

Chris: The stamina of the entire team is really something.

Emma: LEAP has changed many, many lives. What I don’t think some people understand is that having the opportunity to go on a LEAP trip will change their life forever. I have learned so much in the short 4 days of being there and the experiences I experienced will stick with me for my life.

Getting to share this with my dad and the LEAP team was a great experience, for which I am very grateful.

 

 

If You Build It, They Will Come

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_U6A4734It’s been a year since LEAP built an extended Emergency Room and Outpatient Clinic at our partner hospital in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. We asked Gladys Thomas, CEO of Hopital Espoir, how many patients have been served through this major expansion project.

We are beyond pleased to report the following:

  • Since opening in Nov. 2016, the Outpatient Clinic has served 23,626 patients
  • Since Jan. 2017, the Emergency Room has received 3,095 patients
  • The new Operating Room has had 55 surgeries since opening in April 2017

IMG_4703Each person served through these new facilities would likely not have been seen at all or been placed on an extensive waitlist.

We are grateful to Ellen and Clayton Kershaw, who funded the project, as well as to Janet and Pat Ortega, who led the construction effort.

We pray that the project will be able to serve countless others over the years, and we celebrate the efforts of the medical professionals who have brought life to the facilities to bring about this already impressive impact.

Mexico: Dr. Alejandra Garcia

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21200708_486360641718898_5888570809863226556_oDr. Alejandra Garcia, a pediatric plastic surgeon and longtime LEAP medical volunteer, helped lead a small team to Zihuatanejo, Mexico to address the need for ear reconstructions in pediatric patients. This location is outside LEAP’s usual mission locations, but we felt called to lend a hand. Below, Dr. Garcia describes the experience from her point of view.

What drew you to the need for pediatric ear reconstructions in Zihuatanejo? 
We have family in the area. They connected with a local ENT who takes care of all kinds of patients, adults, and children. He shared the tremendous need for specialists and access to care. He specifically sees a lot of children with ear malformations. He knows what an impact it has on their social development and was frustrated that he had no way to get them treatment.

When you arrived, what were some of your first impressions with regard to how the team would be able to make a difference? 
We were greeted at the airport by a full local team very enthusiastic to get this mission going. This was the first reassurance that we were meant to be here. Once we arrived at the hospital, we saw a full waiting room of patients and all the hospital staff welcoming our team. The local ENT said, “this is only the beginning, there are so many more!”

Describe the dynamics of the team that went on the trip. What were your greatest strengths? 
This was a core team, experienced LEAPers who spent weeks preparing and came with an incredible attitude to represent our organization, our mission, and step up to the challenges of a first time in a new location. Some were old friends to me, and some were new faces, yet all had that enthusiasm and dedication that I am familiar with in all LEAP volunteers.

Was there a particular patient story that moved you or a memory you will always hold dear? 
The last case we were able to do was that of a 9-year-old boy with an ear that was “curled”. While this did not require a full reconstruction, it was a challenge to get his ear to open up. His mother was tearful from the moment we said we would do the surgery, knowing this would make a huge difference in her son’s life. My favorite moment was when we took off the dressings a few days later and showed the boy his ear. He opened his eyes wide and gave the sweetest smile.

Why do you serve with LEAP? What motivates you to offer your skills to those in need? 
Everything is a gift from God. If you believe that then you know your skills are His. Every LEAP mission has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. The camaraderie is difficult to describe. To me this means that’s what we are supposed to be doing with whatever skills we have to offer.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 
There were so many more patients than we were able to treat, I am eager to return!

Landmark Program: Wilkin

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It was in March 2000, the year of LEAP’s 10th anniversary, when a local surgeon asked Dr. Craig Hobar if he would take a look at a patient who had been in the hospital for three weeks. The story of Wilkin alarmed even surgeons accustomed to dealing with suffering on a daily basis.

The Dominican Republic is a land of sugar cane, coffee plantations, and music. In the little town of San Pedro de Macoris, the hometown of former professional baseball player Sammy Sosa, sugar cane was transported by a slow moving train. As the train made its way through town, laden with the dark cane stalks, the local children played a dangerous game of jumping on and off the trains. It was during one of these childish games that Wilkin, then 16, fell beneath the wheels of the moving train and was dragged several yards down the tracks. He was taken to the new hospital where his left arm and left leg were immediately amputated. His right arm and leg were mangled, but the local surgeons tried desperately to save them.

Wilkin with family 2014Dr. Hobar and Dr. Larry Hollier, a noted hand surgeon from Houston, cleaned the severe wounds on Wilkin’s remaining arm and leg and determined a treatment plan later in the day. The operating schedule was rearranged to accommodate Wilkin, the team was ready to begin, but no one was prepared for the severity of Wilkin’s injuries or the condition of his remaining arm, which later required amputation. In the 17 years since LEAP first treated Wilkin, we have continued to monitor his progress and have outfitted him with prostheses for his arms and leg.

Wilkin is now in his 30’s, married with three children, and works with computers. As part of his ongoing care, LEAP recently provided him with replacement prostheses for both arms. It has been a joy to watch him flourish despite the many challenges he’s faced and to see him find love and happiness. One of the best parts of our mission work is that we get to return to the same communities and maintain lasting relationships with our patients.

Landmark Program: Updates on Xuan & Long

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We first introduced you to Landmark recipients Xuan (then 8 months old) and Long (age 9) when they first arrived in the U.S. from China in February. Both children were abandoned at birth, likely due to their significant craniofacial abnormalities.

We are delighted to share that both boys are doing incredibly well! The LEAP family has come out in support of these sweet souls in so many beautiful ways over the past 6 months. Seeing their transformations—both physically and emotionally—since their arrival has been such a joy.

FullSizeRender (1)According to Dr. Hobar, “Xuan has been one of the most challenging situations I have ever seen in a bilateral cleft lip. His attempted repair in China separated, and his lateral lips fused behind his central segment, pushing it out and away.”

This basically means that Xuan’s perceived simple surgery was in fact one of the most complex we’ve ever treated through LEAP. In total, Xuan has received four surgeries to repair his bilateral cleft lip and cleft palate. There was a 4-week period when his mouth had to be mostly closed—imagine how hard that must have been for a growing baby who loves to eat!

Cotter FamilyThroughout it all, the Cotter family hosted Xuan in their home. Katie and Mike (a pediatrician at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas) have 5 children, and everyone came together to care for Xuan while he healed. They bonded in a spectacular fashion, so much so that the Cotters have decided to be a family of 8 with plans to adopt Xuan!

Katie Xuan Rebecca Beth Kendall“Baby Xuan has been a blessing to our family, and I feel honored that LEAP contacted us to be a part of his care,” said Katie. “Through his cuddles and snuggles, he has opened our hearts in such a beautiful way. We have met so many outstanding people who are involved in helping this little one. Caring for Xuan is truly a labor of love for all involved.”

Xuan and Mike just returned from a week-long trip to Beijing in order to complete various medical exams at the children’s hospital there. Throughout the week, they were able to sightsee and enjoy several special moments together. Xuan was also able to see many of his former house moms at Little Flower Orphanage, who lovingly cared for him since he was a newborn.

IMG_9168Long is doing equally well!

During the first couple of months stateside, he was showered with love by the Ortegas and Howells, two longtime LEAP supporters and host families, where he had tons of adventures learning about American culture, cuisine, and comfort (his favorite food is still spicy chicken feet, though!). One of his favorite outings was his visit to the Anna Fire Department, where he loved learning how to aim the water hose and ring the fire bell.

Howells & LongHe was also warmly welcomed by Judy Chen and Jasper Wong along with their church family, who played a special role in his recovery by speaking Mandarin with him.

LEAP volunteer Charlie Lin, NP, was also integral to his care as a translator and appeared on NBC5 with the Howells and Long when his story was featured by Bianca Castro.

Long endured an 8+ hour surgery on March 8, after going through an extensive pre-op appointment the previous day that included a full debrief, where medical professionals explained what to expect in detail. Like several other Landmark recipients with complex facial clefts, his treatment required a multi-specialty approach. His surgery required four pediatric surgeons: Dr. Craig Hobar, Dr. Fred Sklar, Dr. Doug Sinn, and Dr. Evan Beale.

Screen Shot 2017-08-14 at 11.24.53 AM“Long waited a long time for this surgery, and it will definitely change his life,” said Dr. Hobar. “He is really smart and is bothered by how he is treated differently because of his craniofacial problem. I think he will be a very, very special young man because of who he is and what he has been through. We are thankful that we can be part of another miraculous transformation.”

A couple of weeks after his surgery, Long was able to have his sutures removed, and he met another Landmark recipient—Li Ying—who greeted him in Mandarin and brought a smile to his face.

On March 30, Long had his final appointment with Dr. Hobar before traveling to Georgia to stay with the Chinery family, who was advocating for his adoption. This family of 8 adopted two children from China last year. Their son Evan is a friend of Long who lived in the same orphanage!

Chinerys & LongWe got to see him again in May, when he had a busy day of diagnostic studies and evaluations with Dr. Hobar and Dr. Grant Gilliland. Long’s final surgery took place in late June. His time in Atlanta over the past 4 months has been truly wonderful. He has learned a tremendous amount of English, surpassed his grade level in home school education, and has become an excellent swimmer, recently receiving the Coach Team Award for Most Valuable Team Member.

The Chinerys have loved him well; he has thrived and become happier and more confident though their love and the community that has greatly embraced him.

Scott Porter Captures the Heart of LEAP

By | Belize, Blog, Haiti, LEAP Stories, Mission Program, Volunteers | No Comments

scottporter profileScott Porter is a local photographer who has traveled with us this year on mission to Haiti and Belize. He’s a bit quiet and unassuming, but that’s because he’s focused on capturing the moment rather than being in it. Scott’s got an inimitable talent for capturing an entire story within a single frame. It’s always hard to explain what it’s like to be on mission, but his work represents the layers of emotion, the purity of spirit, and the sweat equity involved in the work.

We love his heart for mission, and we wanted you to get to know him a little better. He’s a pretty special human being who we’re grateful to know.

Tell a little about yourself.
Grew up in the DFW area. Went to UNT for advertising and worked as a copywriter at various ad agencies for over eight years. A few years ago, I was applying for a job as a writer at a nonprofit, and during the course of the interview, they asked what my dream job would be. The answer was to travel and take photos. And hearing myself say that out loud for the first time, I figured that if that really was my dream job, I should probably pursue it. It took a couple years of learning and growing as a photographer, but I’m finally getting to do what I love. I became a full-time freelancer in August of 2016. I still write, but I’ve been able to go on several international trips as a photographer: Guatemala twice, Haiti, and Belize.

What is it about mission work that inspires you? 
Even when I was working in advertising, I always preferred our nonprofit clients. The work I did for them felt more meaningful and more gratifying. That’s still true today. I’m not a doctor, diplomat, businessman, or educator; I have a camera and a desire and ability to go. I love what I do, and I hope the pictures I take end up making some kind of difference. Plus, it’s just really fun to be around people who are experts at what they do and are nice enough to do it to help others.IMG_2395

What was it like being part of the Haiti & Belize missions?
I really enjoyed it. I saw surgeries for the first time and was happy to find out that I’m not squeamish. I especially enjoyed meeting everyone who went on the trips and made some good friends. At the same time, I felt keenly aware that I had the least important job, but I think that was a healthy realization. I was there to play my part. And when I got tired or my feet hurt, I just realized that the same was true of everyone there, so there was really nothing to complain about – even to myself.

What have you learned about LEAP in this process? What have you learned about yourself? 
It was interesting to see the instant gratification of what LEAP does: a kid comes in with a problem, the next day he has surgery, and the problem is fixed. But that said, three days later and these surgeons have gone back to America. Some kids have to wait another year to be treated, and some kids have problems that can’t be helped through surgery at all. It can feel overwhelming because you can never help everyone. But on the other hand, you can look at a mom holding her child and know that that one surgery meant everything to them.

If you could spend time in any part of the world doing this, where would you go?
I’ve only just begun traveling, and there’s nowhere on Earth I don’t ultimately want to visit (I’ve applied for jobs in Antarctica the last two years in a row but no luck so far.). But the place I want most to work in is the Middle East. I have a heart for refugees in general but specifically Syrian refugees, and I’d love to see with my own eyes what they’re going through.

Staffing Changes at LEAP

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DSC01787While we’re sad to see them go, we’re celebrating the good work two staff members have done to develop LEAP’s programs.

Ryan Snyder Thompson helped to start LEAP’s International Disaster Relief Program over four years ago when he joined the LEAP team as the Director of this program. Through his extensive travels to Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, medical mission work became part of his passion of service. So we knew it would only be a matter of time before he got into PA school and would have to dedicate his full attention on those efforts. While he will be missed, we are celebrating this incredible accomplishment and wish Ryan all the best as he begins a new journey in medicine. We look forward to when he will be able to join our mission teams in another capacity!

Zim 2015 IMG_4609After almost four years of invaluable leadership and development of the Mission Program, Kristin McCool has decided to spend more time focusing on family and international church ministry. We wish her well in all of her future endeavors and truly appreciate everything she has done to make LEAP’s Mission Program more streamlined and effective.

Please join me in thanking Ryan & Kristin for their service!

Debbie Wisdom
Executive Director

Introducing LEAP’s New Board Chair: Michael Byrd

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Byrd-chairFor the first time in our 25-year history, LEAP has a new Chair of the Board of Directors. Longtime Board Member and LEAP supporter Michael Byrd has taken over the role Dr. Craig Hobar has held since the organization’s inception in 1991. Michael is an attorney and founding partner at Dallas-based healthcare firm ByrdAdatto.

“Michael’s level of commitment to LEAP was an early sign of his leadership potential,” said Dr. Hobar. “His sharp mind and kind heart will prove to help LEAP continue to grow and evolve in the years to come.”

Through Dr. Hobar’s tremendous acts of service, leadership, and sacrifice, LEAP has had the opportunity to grow toward shared leadership within the organization. As we plan for success and a long future of service ahead, it is an honor to have Michael serve in this capacity.

Please join us in congratulating him and thanking him for his commitment to LEAP.

Dr. Candace Granberg Carries a Hammer for Haiti

By | Blog, Haiti, LEAP Stories, Mission Program, News, Volunteers | No Comments

17835017_906370412837859_3838507300863010161_o

Dr. Granberg started a Facebook campaign called #hammerforhaiti to raise money for LEAP with the goal of $2500 before traveling to Haiti on April 20. The plan was that if she reached that goal, she would carry the heavier hammer in the fall Hammer Race on October 7. Well, she surpassed the goal and will carry that heavy hammer!

Dr. Granberg says she’s “happy to suffer/sweat/bleed/run for such a great cause” and “will try to make the Hammer Race [her] fundraiser every year.”

 We caught up with Dr. Granberg soon after the Haiti mission to learn more about her involvement with LEAP:

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