I am still glowing from a week in Honduras in February 2013, where I was on a surgical mission to repair children born with cleft lip and palate. It was a gratifying experience for me and Virginia, my nurse who accompanied me.
The exact cause of congenital clefts is not known. Both environmental and genetic factor are responsible. Somewhere between the 8th and the 11th week of gestation, a baby’s face and mouth are formed by fusion of tissues in the midline. When this motion fails to occur, there is a “cleft” or gap that results in a hole in the roof of the mouth, a split in the lip, loss of upper jaw bone and teeth, and a distortion of the nose. This occurs in about one in a thousand births. The incidence goes up in the face of malnutrition and poor prenatal health care. The deformity causes difficulty feeding, speaking, hearing and difficulty with socialization.
Honduras is a country of 7 million people and over five million live in abject poverty. Malnutrition is widespread and access to medical care is unavailable to its poor majority. The Friends of Barnabas Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)3 that is dedicated to improving the medical condition of Honduran children. I have been actively involved in these endeavors for a number of years.
On this February 2013 trip to Siguetepeque, Honduras we were able to provide needed surgeries for 23 children with cleft lip or palate. Our team of 13 medical personnel and five support persons screened children the first day to choose those most in need. We operated for five days. The children and their caregivers then returned to the Barnabas Foundation House for post operative care and education.
Children with clefts often need 4-5 operations to fix their many problems. The Friends of Barnabas provides continuity of care for these kids and their families, helping with education about the special needs of this group and keeping them in a system to provide the complex care they will need.
For more information about this remarkable non-profit visit www.fobf.org. To view more photos of our journey visit my Facebook page.