Most of us have seen the TV commercials for Operation Smile. This program sends Canadian doctors to do cleft lip and palate surgery on severely facially deformed children in needy countries. What most of us don’t know is that Thunder Bay has had its own Smile Project for 9 years.
In 2012, MEMO made contact with Dr. Marisel Garcia de Busta, a pediatric maxillo-facial surgeon in Matanzas, Cuba. She was performing cleft lip and palate surgery on newborns in the Pediatric Hospital of Matanzas. She was struggling with the surgeries due to lack of proper micro-instruments, poor lighting and lack of proper sutures for doing the repairs.
Children with cleft lip suffer facial deformities often leading to social stigma. Cleft palate often results in early feeding problems and speech impediments. MEMO replaced the adult surgical instruments with a full set of specialezed micro-instruments for operating on these little ones. Dr. Marisel was supplied with a LED headlamp with magnifying eyeglass lenses to make it possible to do fine surgery on these tiny patients.
In order to have perfect repair results, a specialized suture (expensive) called Polydiaxanone should be used. These are not available in Cuba. This suture not only slowly dissolves over 6 months holding the repair together while it slowly heals, but it also stretches while the infant grows.
MEMO sends a regular supply of the suture to Dr. Marisel by way of Thunder Bay tourists travelling to Varadero near Matanzas. A sophisticated but redundant anesthetic machine from a Northwestern Ontario hospital was donated so these little ones could be safely asleep for their surgery. MEMO participated in sending Dr. Marisel to the Massachusetts General Hospital to learn the latest techniques from the world’s leading maxillo-facial surgeon. As a result of proper instruments and supplies, advanced training and an innate surgical gifting, Dr. Marisel’s results are stunning. As these children grow, it is almost impossible to tell they have had cleft lip repair.
MEMO has a supply of suture and micro-scalpels waiting for a tourist to carry them to Cuba. If you live in the Thunder Bay area and are travelling to Cuba this winter, call 807 627-6360 to carry a suitcase full of desperately needed medical supplies to Cuba (baggage charge waived).
You can be part of this Thunder Bay Smile Project by donating money to buy sutures and other supplies for Dr. Marisel. $8 will buy one Polydiaxanone suture for one babies’ repair. Click on the DONATE button to view options.
Thank you MEMO supporter for making it possible for Cuban children to have a perfect smile. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and forbid them not.”