As we start 2017, we look back at our efforts from 2016 and celebrate our accomplishments.
We closed 2016 with 165 children enrolled in our Infant Nutrition Program. This program is specially important for children with a cleft lip and a cleft palate because, due to this birth defect, breastfeeding is compromised and malnourishment becomes a reality. Without proper strength and body weight, many children would have to be turned down for their life changing surgery. Thanks to the generosity of our donors and the wonderful people joining as volunteers and partner organizations, however, children in Guatemala receive the treatment they need, from nutrition, to surgery, to follow ups, to speech therapies, to a new smile.
Sandra, mother of the adorable Daniela, was afraid her daughter would not survive due to her cleft lip and palate. When she visited our Mobile Medical Mission in Panzos, however, Daniela was enrolled in the Infant Nutrition Program and was able to gain 5 pounds in one month, and her surgery was scheduled for last November. Sandra was very happy to find us and she knew that she would be able to be the proud mom she always wanted to be.
In our nutrition porgram we also met Dulce, a girl among four brothers. Her family was no stranger to us. Her brother Julio was also born with a cleft lip and palate and we performed his two surgeries 5 years ago. The family came from a house with no electricity and the only water available was from the rain; with only trails and no roads, the closest health clinic was a one-and-a-half hour walk. Dulce was a tiny girl, arriving with only 8 pounds before she was enrolled in our program.
The Infant Nutrition Program is a continuous effort. As one child leaves, we know there are more waiting in line. We believe that a child should not be turned down due to the family's financial situation and we work very hard to raise the funds needed to continue with our programs from start to finish. Changing another person's life takes time and effort, and we are happy to do it everyday.
As the year draws to a close, I would like to summarize our accomplishments in this project during 2016. With our Guatemalan sister organization, Asociacion Companero para Cirugia (ACPC), we supported 18 surgical teams with patients and for 5 of these teams we also provided the in-country logistics support. Altogether, 680 patients received surgical care and more than 6,000 received medical attention.
I would like to use the experience of several patients to describe how we provide the surgical care. In October, we scheduled patients with the Hernia Society which would be volunteering in Antigua that month and this team provided 65 of our patients with surgical care. One of these patients was Kennet who was born with an inguinal hernia in La Tinta, Alta Verapaz. His mother and his father had travelled every week to a local hospital to get the much needed surgery, but the hospital didn’t have medical supplies. His mother, Otilia, was afraid of having more children, thinking that they would also be born with a hernia and the family would not be able to do anything about it.
Fortunately, Kennet and his family were told about our medical mission to a nearby community and we were able to schedule him with the Hernia Society team. Kennet was very lovely and many volunteers fell in love with him and with his smile. After the surgery, Kennet’s mother said she was “very thankful to all volunteers and encouraged them to keep coming to Guatemala”.
In addition to those patients receiving surgery, another seven had to return home because their major incisional hernias required more advanced planning by a team. Since we have the capability to follow up on all our patients, ACPC was able to reschedule five of the patients with incisional hernias with the Canadian Health for Humanity team that came for three weeks in November. Alicia Risso was one of these incisional hernia patients and she said after her surgery: “I want to thank Partner for Surgery and ACPC for not giving up on us and for finding the support we needed. We felt sad when we were told in October that we would not get our surgeries, but ACPC found another team for us. Thanks to the teams and to the people who made this possible”.
We are making a renewed effort to encourage non-medical volunteers to join us on a medical mission in Guatemala and also visit some of the patients in their rural homes. If you know of anyone who might have an interest in learning more, please contact me at 703 893-4335.
From all of us in Partner for Surgery and ACPC, we thank you for your support of our project Medical Care for 2,000 Rural Guatemalan Families (18508).
The Cleft Infant Nutrition Program Partner for Surgery started with our sister organization in Guatemala six years ago has become a critical part of health care in rural Guatemala for children born with this defect. Eighty per cent of the children in the program are referred to us by midwives and local health promoters which means children and families get attention in lactation assistance, nutrition education and the care and feeding of cleft children shortly after the child is born. However, when children are not enrolled within a few days after birth, dehydration, malnutrition, and illness are the norm.
Ruth Arias and her family live in the very small rural village of El Remolino 75 miles from a regional hospital. When Ruth’s mother, Herly, saw Ruth at birth, she became distraught and developed emotional and physical problems. Ruth has a cousin with a cleft and no one imagined another child would be born in the family with a similar problem. Ruth was not well cared for and her life was in danger. She was almost one month old before Julio, a health promoter with our Guatemalan sister organization, Asociacion Companero para Cirugia, learned of Ruth and enrolled her in the Nutrition Program and assisted Ruth’s mother. Because of the support provided by the program, both Ruth and Herly’s health improved and Ruth was able to qualify for surgery when she was 10 months old. Under the guidance and support of Julio, Ruth has had her lip repaired and within a few months we hope she will be ready for surgery on her palate and start speech therapy. Herly was almost speechless after Ruth’s surgery, but managed to say, “The help provided by Companero para Cirugia made this miracle possible - thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Since our report to you three months ago, 60 children from this program have received corrective surgery from the San Francisco Bay Area Faces of Hope team. This experience of the Arias family is similar to the other 165 children who already received corrective surgery this year in large part because of your financial support. Please encourage your friends to be a part of this unique program that helps children and their families to better health.