by Deborah Brackney
Past President, Rotary eClub One
Five years can make a great difference to a life. Babies who were born five years earlier are entering kindergarten and those who started college five years earlier are usually taking the first steps to adulthood.
For five years, Rotary eClub One has supported an International Service Project, called Healing the Children-Rocky Mountain Chapter (HTC-RMC). This organization, each year, sends medical volunteers to Lima, Peru to perform clef palate surgeries. These surgeries, the hospitalization, and most of the costs to the families to travel to Lima for this surgery are completely free. Organizations such as Rotary make this possible. This year’s Rotary eClub One grant offset travel costs for more than 50 families who traveled from all over Peru to apply for the surgery and if accepted stay, in Lima for 3-4- days. This club’s five-year support means over 300 children and their families have had their lives changed.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are openings or splits in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate) or both. Cleft lip and cleft palate result when facial structures that are developing in an unborn baby don't close completely.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common birth defects. They most commonly occur as isolated birth defects but are also associated with many inherited genetic conditions or syndromes. Peru is a country which has a higher than normal occurrence of this syndrome. The only cure is surgery; at least one, and sometimes as many as five surgeries to correct the split. Without the surgery, there is no cure which means that speech, hearing and sight may be affected for the rest of the sufferer’s life.
Each year HTC-RMC throws out a large net across Peru to attract families to agree to the surgery, to work with both the governments of Peru and Lima, to leverage hospital staff, and to partner with a local Rotary club (Lima Siglo XXI). This club provides access to Lima organizations that can help with volunteer translators and other services, as well as feed the families who come from all over the country to get this surgery.
This year, 44 medical volunteers, which included doctors, nurses, audiologists, dentists, speech therapists, and optometrists, saw over 158 children. Some of these children were back after a previous surgery to get follow-up care from speech therapists or audiologists to make sure that the physical surgery was enhanced by other treatments. This year 115 procedures were performed in 5 days.
While these numbers are impressive of what a well-trained, passionate group can do, there are many benefits in addition to these numbers. Probably the biggest result is that a child, once operated and offered follow up care, has a chance to live a non-impaired life. The incredibly grateful families are able to contemplate a better future for their child than if there was no surgery. Another benefit is that the US doctors, who now have great experience in this surgery, open up their operating rooms for Peruvian medical students to learn how to do this surgery. This year, over 40 medical students, doctors, and nurses, observed and were trained so they can go into their communities ready to assist or perform the surgery.
Rotary eClub One member, Deborah Brackney (on right) with Lima Siglo XXI Rotary Club, Past President Julio and President, Yrma.
This year, I was able to go see all that Healing the Children-Rocky Mountain Chapter does. I was also able to meet the Lima Rotary club that supports the project in Lima. I met with Past President Julio Saettone Dolci and current President Yrma Yupanqui of the club Lima Siglo XXI. This club not only helps with funding, they offer tactical and operational assistance to work with hospital administration and the transportation of the medical equipment.
Following are pictures that tell the story much better than my words can do. These pictures feature all that was happening with the families, the medical professionals, the patients and what was going on at the hospital. There are before and after pictures of the surgeries at the HTC-RMC at their website: www.htcrm.org
The first set of pictures tells of a little boy waiting with his family for follow up rhinoplasty surgery. With his family in the waiting room;
Going into the Operating Room
Getting checked in and readied:
A mom with her daughter after surgery
The courtyard of the hospital where many of the families sit while waiting for operations to be done: