As many of you know, I was offered a wonderful opportunity this last January, when I headed to Phan Rang, Vietnam to assist with ReSurge International’s latest medical mission.
Over a 14-day period, two plastic surgeons (myself and one other) handled approximately 120 procedures on close to 80 patients. In addition to numerous cleft lip and palate surgeries, we also tackled extra thumb removals, burn reconstruction surgery, and severe eyelid droop in children (which occurs occasionally as a birth defect).
In a country with a population of 87 million, with 22% at the poverty level, and approximately six physicians per 10,000 people, it’s rewarding to not only help heal the emotional trauma of a defect, but also offer a family and child the reward of a promising future.
Reconstruction is much more than cosmetic in Vietnam: It’s a crucial step toward acceptance and opportunity. Clefts carry a stigma, with profound social and educational barriers, as well as contributing substantially to malnutrition and nutrient-deficiencies.
Likewise, it is crucial to have full use of one’s hands. With farming, mining and factories the leading industries for rural populations, anything less means hardship and failure. Congenital deformities, as well as a higher incidence of injuries and burns, can truly alter the life path of children.
It sounds like a cliche, but I truly was blessed to be part of such a large undertaking. I saw so many beautiful children with spirits that were undaunted by their setbacks, and families so grateful for the opportunity of a new beginning for their offspring.
Over the last 20 years, ReSurge has performed approximately 10,000 surgeries. I was fortunate to be part of their recent team, and very much look forward to future missions.