Early Sunday morning, a team of 17 volunteers arrived for MMFC’s first mission to Madagascar. The whole team got right to work unpacking the 16 bags of medical supplies, setting up the operating rooms, and beginning to screen patients. During the 5 day mission, over 90 patients were evaluated and 31 surgeries were performed, including 7 thyroid lobectomies, neck tumors including a possible unusual giant cystic parathyroid and others. The team also collaborated with the local surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, fellows and students. We taught the local ENT fellow and attendings and most cases had a local person scrub with our teams. Both groups were able to learn from each other and enjoyed sharing techniques, experiences, and stories.
Members of both teams expressed gratitude for the experience and the patients helped through the life-changing surgeries during a concluding banquet at the end of the week, enjoying the Malagasy cuisine. We are particularly grateful to Professor Hery Rakotoarisoa, our local ENT host who helped prepare everything and the staff of the Polyclinique Universitaire NEXT in Antsiranana who were wonderful! We look forward to returning to Madagascar to continue our teaching, our charitable work and relationships with the local doctors and community!
Our 2019 MMFC mission began with a warm welcome back from local partners, including our host for many years, the Fundación Tierra Nueva, Dr. Patricia Jarrín, Mary Kay Barrera, and many other loyal supporters, who keep our mission running smoothly on the ground in Quito year after year. We truly felt like we were “coming home” as we set out on this 21st year of MMFC’s Quito Mission.
Led by our MMFC Co-founders, Dr. Rafael Barrera and Dr. Charlie Badaoui, our team hit the ground running. Many of us have been returning to the Quito Mission for years. We were eager to follow up with patients treated in past years, and to treat as many new patients as possible during our week in Quito. Even logistical challenges posed by a general strike mid-week proved to be no obstacle to our dedicated team, and we completed the scheduled surgeries almost without exception.
Our exceptionally talented medical team of volunteer surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, dentists and staff arrived from leading medical centers across the USA and England, including Massachusetts General Hospital, the Mayo Clinic, Northwell Health, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, and King’s College Hospital of London. Friendships were rekindled, new team members embraced, and enthusiasm was high.
On day 1, we readied for the busy week ahead and screened close to 100 patients. Over the course of the week, 3 operating rooms dedicated to MMFC for the week ran full simultaneous schedules, and 33 surgical procedures were performed. Surgeries included primary cleft lip repairs on infants, bone grafts to repair cleft palates and other palate deformities, delicate scar revisions, and a range of ENT procedures. Dr. Badaoui and the dental team working in a dedicated dental suite performed dental procedures under general anesthesia on patients with special needs.
As a returning team member, I am touched to see the healing and transformation of our returning patients from past years, how they beam with new-found, and sometimes still tentative, self-confidence. We are humbled by the profound respect and appreciation of parents and family members and delighted by the courage and antics of our young patients.
Keeping in mind that MMFC reaches patients in the most distant corners of the country, we arranged the surgery schedule with Dr. Jarrin’s help to ensure that patients from rural areas in the Amazon, who must travel long distances to Quito for treatment, are seen first and have the first procedures, allowing them time to heal before returning to far-off homes. We are reminded that the congenital conditions we treat sometimes run in families and we marvel at the quiet strength of mothers who return year after year with multiple children for treatment and follow-up. We give special goodbyes and sometimes little donated toy gifts to our happy departing post-op patents, who in most cases are discharged the day after surgery. The healing power of patients who have undergone bone grafts involving complex surgery at 2 sites (one to harvest the bone from the patient’s hip and a second to repair the cleft or fistula, along with multiple tooth extractions) is nearly miraculous.
The transformations that result from MMFC procedures are stunning and dramatic. I feel privileged to be a part of MMFC’s Quito 2019 Mission. In a matter of hours (and sometimes minutes), and with every procedure, MMFC is transforming youngsters and changing lives forever for the patients and their families.
We are deeply grateful for the dedication, service and generosity of the tireless contributors and donors who make the Quito Mission possible, including Pedro Alvarez, Dr. Patricia Jarrín, Mary Kay Barrera, Fuad Dassum, Susana Chiriboga, Leonidas Naranjo and Claudio Crespo in Quito, and our many contributors from the US and around the world.