Mending Kids' Cristina Farrut (Director of Mission Services) and Alanoud Hamad (Mission Coordinator) get candid about what’s involved in coordinating an overseas mission. Planning an international mission truly does take a village. Not only that, it's a constant act of juggling and prioritizing. According to our mission team, the pre-plan phase has many components. To begin with, after the mission dates have been finalized, our two top priorities are to secure a local hospital and then identify a medical team. Our lead surgeons are responsible for selecting the medical team who will be traveling abroad to provide surgeries for the children and train local doctors.
Once the volunteer base of both medical and non-medical staff is established, their travel arrangements must be made. Some of our missions include upward toward 14-18 volunteers! Imagine juggling multiple itineraries and travel requests?
After that, medical supplies must be procured through corporate donations, constituent donations and lots of fundraising.
Mending Kids relies on the countries local medical teams to pre-select our patients and determine viable surgical candidates to pre-screen before our U.S. volunteers arrive in the host country.
According to Cristina, “We always run into a handful of challenges with international travel, logistics, time-change, and language barriers.”
However, our mission team agrees that in the end, it’s a great feeling when it all comes together and through teamwork the mission successfully saves children’s lives' in these impoverished communities.
Mending Kids former patient Mark proved against all odds that he is a survivor. Mark was born on May 18, 2007 in Ukraine. The doctor that delivered him told his family that he had no more than three months to live because Mark had been born with complicated spinal birth defects, including an infection in his spinal cord.
Mark’s Mom and Dad were not willing to give up that quickly. They sought help at the Institute of Neurosurgery, a leading healthcare institute in Ukraine, to find the best treatments available. The hospital and the doctors were not equipped to stop the initial infection and the infection had to be treated before the surgery could occur. At the time, their only hope was to seek surgery in The United States but the high costs of treatment were not affordable to them. They felt urgency but had no immediate solution.
Their extended family in the United States had done some research and discovered Mending Kids. Mending Kids International stepped in and flew Mark and his family the 16 hours from Kiev to the UCLA Medical Center in June 2017, when Mark was only about one month old. Multiple surgeries were performed over the course of several months, primarily by Dr. Jorge Lazareff, and they saved Mark’s life.
“Most of all we are thankful to Mending Kids International for bringing Mark to the United States and for providing funds for his treatment. It is incredible what MKI did for our family. There is a considerable chance that Mark would die if there were no Mending Kids intervention,” says Mark’s Mom, Anna Nesteruk.
Today Mark is 11 years old. He is a successful student despite all of his past medical complications. He plays the violin and likes to read. Even though he is in a wheelchair, he is often seen smiling and playing with his younger brothers.
As we welcomed the new leadership of our CEO, Chris Johnson, we saw our 7th annual Wings Gala as an opportunity to thematically “Imagine” where the future would lead us? Imagine how new partnerships would help us expand our footprint and Imagine, how with the support of our friends, we could mend more children and surpass the 4000 children whose lives Mending Kids has already touched?
With the future in mind, MK recruited fervent supporters Carmela De Brouwer and Rana Gebran to co-Chair this year’s gala, along with a mix of new and veteran committee members to help us curate an exciting silent and live auction event and to help us raise funds for our programs and celebrate this year’s MK heroes; Sienna Dugan, Long Beach Miller Children's and Women’s Hospital Long Beach and Dr. Robert M. Bernstein at the spectacular Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
What is our formula for success? 2 great co-chairs + 12 amazing committee members + 3 deserving honorees + 8 Mending Kids Staff + 18 Board Members + 1 illustrious location + 450 friends = Hope-Love-Mend
We look forward to seeing everyone on November 17, 2018. www.mendingkids.org/gala.html
Two-year-old Kalen was born with club-feet. He came to Shriners for Children’s Medical Center this summer for surgery on one foot and casting to the other. Over a 3-month period, his castings were changed every two weeks! . Mending Kids wishes Kalen continued mending and happy healing.
Arles from Nicaragua has been one of Mending Kids International Surgical Care patients since he was six years old. Sadly, he burned both of his legs when he was only two. He'll be staying with his host family; Rebekah and Dave while his legs are examined and treated at Shriners For Children’s Medical Center this month.
Mending Kids has been following Walter on his journey. Walter recently returned to his home in Nicaragua after he had reconstructive leg surgery this summer in Los Angeles. Mending Kids is so grateful for our partnership with Shriners for Children’s Medical Center and that Walter received this
life-changing surgery under their care.
7-year-old Joan from Asunge village in Uganda has heart disease and was operated on in Bangalore, India last month. Mending Kids recently got an update that though Joan is still hospitalized, her condition remains stable and her recovery is going well. Mending Kids sends their prayers and blessings to Joan and her family and wishes her a speedy recovery.
Mending Kids has an update on 1-year-old Christian who flew from Uganda to Bangalore, India a few weeks ago for critical heart surgery. He was one of two Mending Kids children from Uganda that was flown to India that week. Christian has been evaluated, underwent surgery and will remain in the hospital under care for further evaluation. Mending Kids sends Christian and his family a big, virtual hug and we'll continue to pray for him and update you on his progress.
Mending Kids U.S. and Italian Medical Volunteers Work Together to Mend Children’s Hearts in Tanzania.
The goal of this year’s week-long medical mission at the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute (JKCI) in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania was to provide complex life-saving open-heart surgeries and interventional cardiology procedures provided to 30 kids, 11 of which received open-heart surgery and 19 received interventional cardiology procedures. 44 children were screened, 39 procedures were done. In addition, Mending Kids surgeons continued the training of local cardiac surgeon, Dr. Godwin Sharau, the first certified Tanzanian pediatric cardiac surgeon in the country and pediatric interventional cardiologist, Godfrey Mbwala. The ICU Nurse and Staff nurses also received training from our mission coordinator, and repeat Mending Kids volunteer, Mollie Mullaney R.N. who is spending a year in Tanzania to help elevate the standards of nursing care there.
The 18 medical volunteers from both the U.S and Italy were led by Dr. Evan Zahn, Director of the Congenital Heart Program & Director of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and co-lead by Dr. Salvatore “Sasha” Agati, Chief of Congenital Heart Surgery at Bambino Gesu Hospital in Taormina Italy.
According to Dr. “Sasha” Agati, “We have made tremendous strides here in Tanzania over the last four years from an anesthesia, surgical and nursing care standpoint and the local staff here at JKCI are much more capable of handling these complex cardiac cases at present. Through these Mending Kids missions, we are only here now to support them.”
Over the past 3 years, nearly 100 Tanzanian children have received life-saving care from Dr. Zahn and Dr. Agati who volunteer their time to save as many children as they can in a week-long marathon of mending. Children suffering from life-endangering heart conditions and advanced congenital heart disease have been given second chances at living healthy lives.
Many thanks to our invaluable in-kind donation sponsors who made this mission possible; Abbott, Edwards Lifesciences, Medtronic, Medshare, Merit Medical and Teleflex. And many thanks to the following individuals who donated upward towards $23,000 to Dr. Zahn's cardiac mission; Anonymous, Walter Tice, Gus Van Sant. Lucas Zahn, Efrain Hernandez Jr, Darrell Payne, Arnold Fischler, Seth Sahr, Nicole Berndsen, Phil Nevin, Glen Titan, Ruchira Garg, Ruchira Garg, Robert Wong, Hillary Mandel, Christine Houde, Bradley Richter, Jo Anne Neives
This year, Mending Kids will be honoring:
Sienna Dugan, with the Hope Award. A student and non-medical volunteer who has traveled on many missions with us, for her outstanding service and for being a shining example and great ambassador for Mending Kids.
Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Long beach with the Love Award. In recognition of the great support the hospital has shown us supporting surgical missions to Guatemala, Peru and right here in Los Angeles.
Robert M. Bernstein, MD, with the Mend Award. As Director of Pediatric Orthopedic Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and as a veteran of multiple missions across the globe on behalf of Mending Kids, for his service in providing hundreds of children with critical surgical care and for inspiring future orthopedic surgeons with his impactful teaching practices.
We are currently curating an assortment of silent and live auction items from Clipper Floor tickets to travels to Peru or Shanghai and wine tastings up and down the California coast. We would love for you to attend, meet some of our Mending Kids and help us celebrate the heroes that make all of this possible. Your generosity and your kindness will go a long way to ensuring that Mending Kids will continue to provide much-needed surgical care to children in 2019.
Keep an eye out for your invitations because you should be receiving them shortly.
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This is our first blog post on our new website but please keep in touch as we will be updating this blog every month with upcoming surgical trip stories, child faces, and many more fun updates!