Cleft Lip and Palate Global Missions
Healing the Children is a non-for-profit organization that has been in existence for over 20 years and is divided into various chapters throughout the United States. Its mission is to provide care to children across the world, who may never have access to medical and or surgical care. The organization has many surgical and medical specialists that donate their time to travel to different parts of the world to treat children in need.
Chief of the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at The Mount Sinai Hospital, Vincent Carrao, MD, DDS, has been traveling with Healing the Children’s Northeast Chapter sponsored team for more than 15 years with the main focus on children afflicted with cleft lip and palate. The teams are composed of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and ancillary staff. The primary goal is to operate on children to correct their anatomic deformity. In order for the team to accomplish this task there needs to be an organized plan in place.
How the Mission Works
The orchestration of the plan begins with the identification of a site that has a surgical need; once identified a member of HTC NE travels to the site to decide if the area would benefit from a surgical mission. If the site is found to be in need, the in country host, who initiated the process of site identification, becomes the contact person and organizer of the trip from their country’s perspective. The site visitor returns to HTCNE and begins the process of assembling a team to meet the surgical need identified in the host country.
The in-country contact arranges for the hospital, lodging of the team and gathering of the children to be screened and operated upon. This is accomplished with local doctors and organizations volunteering their time and effort. The mission team is responsible for bringing all the supplies need to complete the task. The team will bring surgical instruments, surgical supplies, monitors, anesthesia supplies, and medications.
The missions always start with a day of screening the children for a possible surgical procedure during the week stay that has been planned. Approximately 60 to 150 patients may be screened the first day. An operating schedule is produced to fill the OR time provided. Any children that come to the hospital during the week that need a surgical repair are evaluated as walk-ins and may also be placed on the OR schedule. The number of children operated on varies between trips depending on the patient population, the number of operating rooms available to the team, and the number of surgeons on the mission. The average number of cases performed is approximately 50 during a 1-week stay.
Although the number of children treated is important, the primary focus of the team is always quality care and a life changing result for the patient and their families. If only one child received this gift of a surgical repair, the mission is considered a success.