Dr. Latha Kampalath is a pediatric anesthesiologist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. When asked how many trips she has gone on with a LEAP volunteer in the past 15 years, Latha laughs and says it’s “too many to count”. During our trip to India this March, she shared some of her favorite memories.
Latha’s commitment to the safety of each of her patients is evident as she shares one of her most poignant memories. “We performed a palate surgery on a one-year-old baby in Haiti, and there were no complications during the surgery. However, the next morning, he was not waking up, even though he had woken up after anesthesia. It was devastating to me to try to figure out if I had done something wrong.” A local pediatrician suggested testing for meningitis, but Latha and the LEAP team ended their mission trip before she was able to find out more on this patient. Two days after returning home, she found out that the baby did indeed have meningitis. “Coming in to have his palate fixed saved his life because we were able to catch his meningitis, and he received the treatment he needed in time. Six months later, when I returned to Haiti, I was able to see him again and see how his surgery had healed!”
Her favorite part of every trip is the ability to change children’s lives from a young age. “You’re transforming that child at a very early age, so they become a better accepted human being for the rest of their life.”
Latha exemplifies LEAP’s long-term commitment to creating a lasting impact and endearing deep trust with patients, their families, and their communities. The duty to each of her patients is something she does not take lightly. “We have the moral responsibility to return a child, a mother, or a father to their family safely. They came in search of relief, and you cannot add more injury to that.” She goes on to add, “I think we have a higher moral obligation to these patients than back home. In my mind, I take it more personally and seriously when I treat these patients.”
When asked about her future plans with LEAP, Latha laughs, “I will keep going on missions until I can’t come anymore. This is my retirement plan!”