Day 1 – Blizzard/Arrival for Some/Screening:
As the geographical dispersed MMFC team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, dentists, and non-medical volunteers converged on Angeles City, I was stuck in a Blizzard. I was scheduled to fly out with the Boston team, but was unable to get to the airport due to blizzard conditions on Cape Cod, where I live. So, the team arrived in Angles City without me. After a quick stop at the hotel to freshen up, they went onto the hospital to screen the waiting children for surgery.
Day 2 – Surgery Begins:
I arrived in Angeles City, just as surgeries started for the day. This year, we had two surgical beds in the operating room. This allowed us to preform 8 cleft lip/palate repairs a day. We had 40 scheduled for the week, with a few possible additions. Some children were sent home from screening with antibiotics to clear up lung infections. We would check them later in the week and if they had improve would be added to the schedule.
Meet the Children of Angeles City:
Irish is a 3 month old girl with cleft lip and no cleft palate. Her mother’s cousin has a cleft palate. No cleft deformities on her father’s side of the family. Her mother is 36 and did not have prenatal care. She does smoke and did smoke through pregnancy. Irish and her family live 2 hours away. Her mother saw signs for the free surgeries that MMFC provides.
Dejay is a healthy 3 month old boy who was born with a unilateral cleft lip and palate. He is one of 4 children, but the only one with cleft deformities. There are instances of cleft lips and palates on his father’s side. Because of his young age, we will fix his cleft lip this year and have him return in 2018 or 2019 to fix his cleft palate. As a rule children need to be healthy, at least a year old, and 10Kg in order to have the cleft palate surgery.
Dejay’s family home is in Pangasinan, which is more than 3 hours away from Angeles City. He and his siblings live there with their Grandmother. Dianna, his mother, told me that she and DeJay’s father live and work on a watermelon plantation from Monday to Saturday here in Angeles City. They go home only on Sundays to see their family. Dianna cooks for the plantation workers and her husband works in the fields. They have been doing this for 13 years. The company provides free housing and a meal for their workers.
Pangasinan is a farming area and jobs are scarce. So, people need to find jobs elsewhere. This is not an uncommon practice. Dianna’s other children are 11, 8, and 4. She gets 2 months unpaid maternity leave when she gives birth. She and her husband have no paid vacations, although they can take some time off. She had permission from her boss to take today off because of Dejay’s surgery.
Dejay’s grandmother made the journey from Pangasinan to be here for the surgery. She carried Dejay into the Pre-Op because Dianna was afraid.
DeJay’s operation was successful and we will see him next year to fix his cleft palate.
Meet John Luke
John Luke is a 2 1/2 year old boy with Cleft lip and palate. He also had some chest congestion that turned out to be more severe than we initially thought. This year we fixed his cleft lip and we will followup next year by fixing his palate.
John is the 3rd of four children and the only one with cleft deformities. His mother is not aware of any other family member with a cleft lip or palate. They live in Angeles City, having moved there 8 years ago for a better life.
His father currently works as a security guard in the subdivision where they live. His mother stays home with the children. Prior to moving to Angeles City, John’s father was a farmer in the Province of Zamboanga Del Norte, which is in Mindanao, Philippines. They grew rice and fruits. Moving to Angeles City has provided a better life for the family.
John’s surgery was complicated by his chest congestion and needed multiple treatments with Albuterol prior and after surgery. About 40% of the children we saw this trip had coughs and/or chest congestion. This is common due to the poor air quality and lack of medical treatment.
John’s surgery was a success and we look forward to seeing him next year.
TJ is a 2 year old boy, who was born with a cleft lip and palate. Two years ago his cleft lip was fixed and this year we are repairing his cleft palate. We were scheduled to do the palate repair in 2016, but because he had a fever and congestion, it had to be postponed until this year. TJ has difficulty with his speech because of the cleft palate. In addition, when he sneezes with food in his mouth it comes out his nose. Typical issues for a child with a cleft palate. His cleft deformities come from his mother’s side of the family.
Modesta who is 65 is TJ’s grandmother. She takes care of him and his brothers. His mother abandoned TJ, his brothers, and father awhile ago. His mother took TJ’s sister with her. Apparently she found another man.
The family moved from Negros Occidental about a year ago. Negros Occidental is a province in the Philippines located in the Negros Island Region southeast of Manila. TJ’s father was a farmer, which is a hard life.
He brought the family to Angles City to find a better way of earning a living. They had previously travelled here to have TJ’s cleft lip repaired.
Today, TJ’s father works from home making barbells, while Modesto takes care of the 3 children.
Rhaine is 2 year old girl with cleft lip and palate. This year we will repair her lip and schedule her for palate repair next year. Her 19 year old mother, Myla, did not have prenatal care and took iron tablets during pregnancy. In addition, her father has cleft deformities on his side of the family.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other factors, such as things the mother comes in contact with in her environment, or what the mother eats or drinks, or certain medications she uses during pregnancy.
Myla meet Rhaine’s father when she was 16 and he was 19. His parents would not allow him to marry Myla and they don’t accept Rhaine as their grandchild. They haven’t provided any support for her either. Myla doesn’t know where Rhaine’s father is at this time.
Myla moved from home about 4 months ago to earn more money in Angeles City and left Rhaine with her maternal grandmother. She works in a massage parlor and her housing is provided by her female boss. Myla is taking care of Rhaine while she is having surgery. Rhaine will soon be going back to her grandmothers about an hour away.
Meet Maria Ann
Maria Anne is a 3 month old girl with cleft lip and palate. She is small for her age, since she was underweight when she was born. Her biological mother became pregnant from a man other than her husband. The bio mother’s other children don’t know about Maria Anne. Apparently both the birth parents have cleft deformities in their families. This year, we will fix her cleft lip and if she’s healthy and weighs at least 20lbs next year, we will fix her cleft palate.
Meet Maria’s Mother
Annalyn and her husband have been trying to have children for the last 7 years. They live 2 hours away. Annalyn is a massage therapist and her husband is a construction worker. They were couple #2 in line for the adoption of Maria. After the Maria was born with cleft deformities, the couple said they didn’t want her. So, Annalyn and her husband adopted Maria. They didn’t care about cleft. Maria is a beautiful little girl to them. They saw the advertisement for MMFC’s Mission to Angeles City on a banner in their town.
Kudos to Annalyn and her husband.
Closing Words from Dr. Denny Snyder (Chairman MMFC):
This past week is living proof of what can be accomplished when all minds and all hearts have the same goal, focus, and intent.200+ children have a new life because of our work over this past week, which in every way is work that began the day we left Angeles in February last year. Judith Feliciano and Timothy Paul Llanos Dee began planning then, and their efforts since that time are immeasurable. None of what we accomplished this week would have been possible without each of you-the sacrifices and commitment and dedication reflect right back at all of us on the faces of children we are privileged to serve.And every thanks to Dr. Abbie Li Cheng, Peter Cheng, the Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation and Joy Venturini. Without your tremendous generosity, all the many beautiful children would still be waiting for help that may never arrive.