Rwanda Plastic Surgery – A Boy’s Upcoming Cleft Palate and Cleft Nose Surgery
It took more than four years to organize a massive effort that will culminate in a life-changing surgery for one 15-year-old boy from Rwanda on December 9.
I wanted to share this story with you during this holiday season, not to bring attention to myself, but to share how if we all use our unique talents to help others, we could truly change so many lives.
I first learned of Jean Claude’s plight four years ago when a friend who had traveled to Rwanda asked me to operate on a boy whose mother had died and whose father was missing in the genocide and war-ravaged country.
Jean Claude was born with a cleft palate and cleft nose, resulting in a physical deformity that left him shunned by his relatives, neighbors and the local school. He is normal in every other way – physical strength, coordination, emotion and intelligence - so he is fully aware of the rejection surrounding him.
Surgery in Rwanda is a daunting task without the necessary medical equipment and personnel to properly care for Jean Claude. Remember, he is still a kid with nobody to care for him after his surgery in his home country. I decided that operating on Jean Claude in Rwanda would be too ambitious and could possibly do more harm than good.
But several years later and through a generous combined effort, San Francisco’s medical community has worked tirelessly to bring Jean Claude to the U.S. for surgery. Together, we were able to:
Secure a U.S. visa for Jean Claude.
- Arrange for a caretaker from Rwanda to be with Jean Claude for 3 months in the U.S.
- Arrange for 3 months of lodging in San Francisco.
- Arrange for California Pacific Medical Center to donate 2 hours of operating room time, along with the surgical supplies, nursing costs and recovery room fees.
- Arrange for anesthesiologists to donate their time for his surgery.
- Arrange for San Francisco pediatrician, Dr. Eileen Aicardi, to donate her time for pre-surgical clearance to make sure Jean Claude is healthy enough to undergo surgery.
- Arranged for Jean Claude to receive 3 months of English instruction.
I will be performing Jean Claude’s surgery on December 9. He is currently living in Tiburon and enjoying his culture shock. When he arrived in San Francisco, he didn’t even bring an overnight bag. He literally owned nothing more than the clothes on his back.
Jean Claude is currently eating three squares a day and then some, wearing new clothes and quickly adapting to a laptop, Internet access - and hugs.
An update of his condition and post-surgical results will be available after his surgery on December 9.
Not all of us are surgeons or caretakers or English tutors, but we all possess some special talents. During this holiday season, I hope that you take a moment to consider all the fortune and comforts that we are surrounded with in America.
I encourage you to donate a small part of your time or talent for those whose lives could be changed by just a simple act. Perhaps it’s just buying the groceries for the person behind you at the store. However you choose to give, I promise that the warm fuzzy feeling that giving provides will be better than any gift under your tree this year.