Gebaon is one of our cardiac patients who received open-heart surgery during our cardiac mission to Dar es Salam, Tanzania. He was the first patient in Tanzania to be successfully operated on with a Fontan procedure. Through an arrangement with the Jakaya Kikwete Cardiac Institute and because time was of the essence, Mending Kids made arrangements for Gebaon and his mother to fly from Ethiopia last year to join the mission in Tanzania. The recovery was long and complex and he is now doing very well.
In wake of the recent and current travel restrictions, we as Mending Kids have adapted our approach to most optimally continue our mission of international healthcare. As you may know, our mission consists of a two-pronged approach of treatment and education.
Unfortunately, one of those prongs, treatment, has been severely impacted due to this pandemic. With the inability to go on international missions, Mending Kids and our doctors yearn to return to the countries we serve. However, while physically we are stagnant, with the help of technology we are grateful to be able to virtually connect across the world and continue our other fundamental mission - education.
On July 23rd, we held our first international educational symposium on critical congenital heart disease at birth. The event was led by Dr. Darren Berman of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Dr. Evan Zahn of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, who were joined by presenters Dr. Kaitlin L’Italien of Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Dr. Ruchi Garg of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and Dr. Corey Stiver of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. We had almost 200 attendees from over 21 countries and 4 states. The event was greatly successful and we hope to only improve in the future.
We are excited to announce that we will be hosting our second symposium Post-procedural Care of Complex Congenital Heart Disease with Dr. Berman and Dr. Zahn on September 22nd, 2020. Click below to register for our second symposium.
Who ever thought that sending our kids back to school would be analogous to sending them to the frontlines? Where do we go from here? What do we do? We act. So the countdown is on for the conclusion of our first round of bidding on the masks that were created by cool individuals such as Gene Simmons, Matthew McConaughey, Courteney Cox, Thandie Newton, Kaia Gerber, Gus Van Sant, and Mallory Lewis and Lambchop. All threw their masks in the ring for our first MASKrAID Campaign to support kids and teachers returning to the classroom.
On deck for the next round are Annie Potts, Katharine Ross Elliott & Sam Elliott, Top Chef Antonia Lofaso, Tom Jenkins, Cheryl Kennedy, Young Sheldon's Iain Armitage, Modern Family's Marcello Reyes, and competitive skiers - the MoCrazy Sisters.
We recognize that bidding to win one of the masks may be challenging, but if you would like to support our MASKrAID campaign please consider the gift of the price of a cup of coffee and help us provide schools with PPE.
You can donate through the MASKrAID site or Venmo us @mendingkids and let us know you are with us.
As importantly, in an effort to stay connected with our colleagues overseas, we presented our first symposium on congenital heart disease. Almost two hundred participants registered for the event that was co-led by Dr. Evan Zahn of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Dr. Darren Berman of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Among them were cardiologists and medical professionals from Brazil, Tanzania, Egypt, Malawi, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Philippines who all took part in this exchange of knowledge, some of which taught how to identify congenital heart disease in a day-old infant with the use of a portable pulse oximeter. It was fascinating and potentially life-saving for the kids who will now have a shot at being mended thanks to an early diagnosis.
So as ever-changing as the future seems to be, we adapt, we act, and we are determined to stay connected and supportive.
Together, we are mending kids.
Over the past several months it has become clear that the health disparities affecting health care access and outcomes in America are also causing COVID to disproportionately affect underserved communities. With this in mind, we are excited to announce that on July 29th Mending Kids will be launching an online bidding campaign called MASKrAID that aims to put masks into the hands of educators and children from vulnerable communities when they are called to return to school.
We reached out to some iconic individuals and influencers and several are coming together. Up for bid are personally designed offerings by Matthew McConaughey, Courteney Cox, Gene Simmons, among others, who are throwing their masks in the ring in support of kids everywhere.
Recipients of the MASKrAID Campaign will include the kids and teachers from after school programs as well as schools serving a high demographic below the poverty rate. Requests can be made here.
Please join us in our MASKrAID Campaign and support teachers and kids who will now become the faces of the frontline. Let’s keep them and all our healthcare heroes safe.
Together we are mending kids.
This Father’s Day we reached out to a few the fathers in our Mending Kids family and asked them to share a little bit about themselves and their children.
This is Dr. Mike Ford, an anesthesiologist who travels with us on our Guatemala ENT mission.
Here’s his story! (Pictured here in Guatemala with a lollipop!)
What are your children’s names and their ages?
“Jonathon (27), Rachel (25) and Joseph (20)”
What is your favorite thing about being a father?
“My favorite thing about being a father has been watching my children grow into kind, caring, wise human beings.”
What surprised you the most about being a dad?
“The most surprising thing about being a father is that you never stop learning. As your child grows, you go from watching Sponge Bob to watching them drive away in your car. It was a shock to my system when they started thinking on their own and looking at me as if I knew nothing!”
What three adjectives would you use to describe yourself?
“The three adjectives I'd use to describe myself are loving, caring and supportive.”
What would surprise your children most to know about you?
“My kids would be surprised to know that I was actually cool in high school and college.”
What should all fathers know about being a parent?
“Fathers should know that there is no one playbook for raising kids. Each kid requires their own set of plays. One size does not fit all. You learn as you go and you will make mistakes, but its okay.”
Why do you volunteer with Mending Kids and what have the experiences meant for you or your kids?
“Volunteering for a medical mission was something I've always wanted to do. I believe in giving back, sharing knowledge, learning from others, inspiring and being inspired. Helping others is fulfilling. It makes me feel like I am an asset to this world when doing something to help another human being, whether it's providing medical care, helping with academics or simply making someone smile. It's the best feeling.”
How do you celebrate Father’s day?
“My family typically celebrates Father's Day by giving me a card with words of appreciation and a gift. In the evening we usually have a big feast prepared by my lovely wife, with help from one of our children. I mostly enjoy spending quality time with my family. Unfortunately, this Father's Day I'll be at work!”
Our next father is Jose L Trejo, he is the father of one of the children who received surgical care at our Hometown Mission in Los Angeles.
Jose is pictured here with his three kids! Here is his story!
“My Name is Jose L Trejo
My children are Josephine Trejo 12 years old
Jorge Trejo 10 years old
And Randy Trejo also 10 years old”
Can You Tell us a little about your children and your experience before finding Mending Kids?
“It hasn't been easy for me and my wife since we had our first child Josie ,she was born with many health issues and conditions , we been in many hospitals since and it's been a roller coaster with her health , her main concern is her kidneys , she was born with a kidney disease and right now she is a kidney transplant recipient. When Jorge and Randy were born for us was like a reward from heaven for not giving up with Josie. We were so happy, but little later my son Jorge , we noticed he was born with a little birthmark on his face very close to his left eye, at the beginning there was nothing visible but little by little it was growing and getting darker and darker.
When Jorge was around 3 years old it was already very noticeable and other kids started to make fun of him and the bully was an everyday thing he was also already attending school and he was getting depressed and did not want to go school. One day he came from school , went straight to the bathroom and he was trying to remove the birthmark with soap ,water and a towel. That’s when I found out , Jorge was not happy and he did not want to have friends and didn’t want to talk to anyone, he was very sad and shy.
I did not know what to do and I called the doctor to see if they could help me to remove it but they told me it was not a health related issue and they didn’t want to help me. After that I tried to see if I could pay a doctor with plastic surgery but it was so expensive and we did not have that kind of money. Right here I lost hope and I was feeling that I was not going to be able to help my son Jorge, I thought about getting a tattoo in the same spot Jorge had his birthmark ,showing him that it wasn't so bad.
One day I came from work and watching the news saw a report about Mending Kids helping kids like my kid and I wrote the phone number and I did call right away not knowing if it was real or maybe the Doctors were not real doctors, it was very hard to believe. But Mending Kids took my call and that's when the miracle started for us.
How has your life and your children's life changed since finding Mending Kids?
“Our lives have changed so much , Jorge now enjoy life like any other kid and he smile every day he is a happy little boy. He is so different , he has lots of friends and that makes me so happy. Mending Kids restored hope in our lives and I am grateful for that every single day of my life.”
What is your favorite thing about being a father ?
“That I have the biggest gift ever , which is to watch my kids everyday growing , laughing and having a happy life I'm a very lucky guy. Sorry I'm a very blessed person that sounds better.”
What surprised you the most about being a dad?
“When I come home from work and my 3 kids run to the door to kiss me. That’s my best reward in life.”
What 3 adjectives would you used to describe yourself?
“I care for other, I share with others and hard worker , try to be excellent Dad”
What would surprise your children most to know about you?
“That I will give my life away, any time for any of them.”
What should all fathers know about being a parent?
“They should know the real meaning about Sacrifice . When you have kids it is not about you anymore, it's about your kids.”
How do you celebrate father's day?
“I celebrate father's day every day of my life , having my kids , watching them grow, having a happy life and getting blessings from God every day that's how I celebrate. GOD BLESS MENDING KIDS”
If we have learned anything from the hundreds of past missions we have deployed overseas, it is how to prepare for the unexpected, adapt on a dime, and pivot forward to accomplish the task at hand. It takes teamwork, resourcefulness, compassion, humility, and looking past obstacles to seek opportunities.
Thanks to the generosity of our partners at Americares and Medshare, along with the Open Hearts Foundation Challenge, and your invaluable support, we have been able to source, purchase and distribute thousands of needed PPE and supplies to the Los Angeles Department of Health Services and many others. (See the list in our previous blog.)
As hard as we have worked to provide a measure of relief for those near to us at home, we have also juggled supporting our kids abroad. Heartbreakingly and frustratingly, one of our babies from Iraq who was visa and medically-approved for heart surgery when the travel ban took place, succumbed to Tetralogy of Fallot. Our hearts are with his family during this unimaginable time. Dozens of other children remain on our waitlist, hanging on to hope that mending will come soon. Sarivelle remains safe in India, awaiting the notice that she will return home to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We realize that we can’t save the world, but with your continued support, we might possibly save someone's world.
If you can, this #GivingTuesdayNow, please give to help us support the frontlines (or become a monthly donor)?
We are all in this together. Together we are mending kids.
We continue with preparations for our 8th annual Hometown Mission 2020 and we are currently accepting referrals for patients - children (0 - 18) who may be in need of elective procedures that have been denied coverage by insurance.
For more information please call: 1-800-993-5680 or visit www.mendingkids.org/htm
If you shop on Amazon for necessities, go to Smile.Amazon.com and designate us. A percentage of your purchase will be donated to Mending Kids.
The more page “likes” we get, the closer we are to corporate sponsorships. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook and stay up to date on our mission to mend more kids.
Mending Kids secured donations for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services by reaching out to our medical supply partners, MedShare and Americares, which normally provides Mending Kids with medical supplies for our overseas surgical missions. The donations were delivered to DHS’s PPE center on Skid Row today by executive director, Isabelle Mejias Fox, and board member, Dorothy Lucey.
Los angeles Times Column: The medical supplies were sitting in storage. Then this healthcare team sent them to the front lines
By STEVE LOPEZ COLUMNIST, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
APRIL 15, 2020, 3 AM
Good people doing good things in troubled times. It’s a story that doesn’t get old, and here’s one more chapter.
In ordinary times, a Glendale-based nonprofit called Mending Kids sends volunteer medical teams around the world to perform pediatric surgery on children in need. But the coronavirus crisis forced a pause for a charity that has flown to the rescue in more than a dozen countries over the last 15 years and served more than 4,000 kids.
“All of a sudden our surgical missions were grounded,” said Mending Kids’ executive director, Isabelle Fox. “Our doctors still wanted to travel, but the risk to them was that they’d be quarantined when they got back home, and their practices would take serious hits.”
As a result, stockpiled medical equipment intended for foreign service was sitting unused while stories about supply shortages at U.S. clinics and hospitals abounded. Mending Kids had hundreds of masks, along with gowns, face shields and oxygen supply equipment.
“My first instinct was — how can we have the most impact with what we have, here at home?” said Fox.
Fox first checked with the doctors, nurses and other medical staff who volunteer with Mending Kids and provided equipment to those who needed it at their regular workplaces. Fox also wanted to get equipment to anyone doing social and medical outreach for L.A. County’s thousands of homeless people.
To that end, Fox called a friend, and before long she was connected to Sieglinde von Deffner, an L.A. County coordinator of skid row services.
Von Deffner, a social worker, is one of the many unsung heroes who for years has worked the streets here in the homeless capital of the United States. I once wrote about a woman living in her car at a hospital where she was getting dialysis treatment, and someone asked me, “Have you called Sieglinde?” I hadn’t but after I did, the dialysis patient got housed.
When Fox caught up with her in mid-March, Von Deffner and the county’s Housing for Health team had been temporarily redeployed from skid row to Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey, where teams were setting up isolation and quarantine units for COVID-19 patients and those exposed to the disease. Some of the few dozen people in the temporary housing were homeless, some had been in shelters, some were living in overcrowded conditions. The point was to get them proper medical treatment and limit the spread of the virus.
At that point, the workers already had protective equipment, Von Deffner said, but she knew that N95 masks and other supplies could be hard to come by, So she asked the L.A. County Health Services Department’s medical director on the Dockweiler team, Dr. Heidi Behforouz, if they could use a donation from Mending Kids.
“She said, ‘Heck yeah, we’ll take it,’” said Von Deffner.
“The conditions were really challenging because of the wind at Dockweiler,” said Von Deffner, something that made contact with sick clients seem all the riskier. She said she maintained a six-foot distance between herself and the others, but medical staffers needed to be in close contact with the clients they were caring for.
Back at Mending Kids headquarters, Fox, volunteer Bob Rubaszewski and others began loading supplies into vehicles. One of the organization’s doctors — ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Ayal Willner — was there for a board meeting and helped sift through the supplies to determine what might be most useful to a quarantine camp.
“I said let’s go,” Willner told me, and he drove one of the vehicles to Dockweiler, where he helped unload the equipment.
Willner, a board member at Mending Kids, has traveled to far-off places to perform surgery and help train foreign medical teams, so there’s a sustainable service in place. He is scheduled to travel to Tanzania in June, but fears that mission will be postponed. He also works on Mending Kids’ L.A. mission, which is to perform surgeries on local children who don’t have access to healthcare and are bullied for scars or physical maladies.
“I’m thankful to have the opportunity to go to Tanzania and Guatemala and help people there and to train their physicians, and also to help here with our hometown mission,” Willner said. “It’s an honor.”
The delivered equipment was put to good use, Von Deffner said, and the Dockweiler camp served its purpose until the county was able to move clients there and the medical team to a hotel in Bell Gardens. But the relationship between the county and Mending Kids didn’t end there.
The usual medical supply chain has been disrupted worldwide during the pandemic, and it’s now a case of “grab what you can wherever you can get it.” Mending Kids, because of its global connections, has been able to scramble, tap sources and get supplies. And Fox has kept in touch with Von Deffner.
“We did more fundraising through our donors,” Fox said, “and were able to buy masks and face shields and gloves, and I called Sieglinde back and said, ‘Is this gonna make a difference?’ She said absolutely, so last Friday I loaded a couple hundred face shields and N95 masks ... and we had a portable ventilator we use for kids who are having open heart surgery.”
Fox delivered most of the equipment to Von Deffner but took the ventilator to MLK Hospital.
“I know everybody is crazy for ventilators right now,” she said. “They had 11 ventilators on hand and 10 were in use with six more on order. And today, I coordinated for another ventilator to be sent to them.”
Von Deffner said the bulk of the latest donation from Mending Kids is now in use at the hotel that’s serving as an isolation and quarantine center. The rest is being used by the public and nonprofit medical teams serving skid row, where Von Deffner is working again. And she said Fox has told her she’ll be shipping more supplies, including a large stash of masks, as soon as she gets her hands on them.
We’ll have lots of dark and painful memories when, down the road, we look back on this prolonged test of our resolve. We’ll think about the loss of so many lives, the blow to so many businesses and the economic hardship suffered by millions.
But we’ll also remember this as a time when a day did not go by without a story about somebody doing something good for somebody else.
We hope that you and your families are healthy. Please wash your hands, don’t touch your face and stay home if you can. It is our best course of action against this virus.
For those who can't, whether because they are working on the front lines or because they have no home, we have been doing what we can to provide a measure of hope and assistance.
Many of our grounded - destined for overseas - medical supplies were donated to the Department of Human Services Dockweiler containment camp for the homeless population battling COVID-19 last month. We have been coordinating the acquisition of personal protection equipment (PPE) and we are currently distributing it to our family of Mending Kids clinicians and to groups supporting some of the most underserved members of our greater Los Angeles community. On Friday, we delivered our portable ventilator to Martin Luther King Community Hospital to help support their life-saving efforts. They currently have only 11 ventilators (6 more are on order) and our donation is expected to be crucial in their efforts to treat this vulnerable community.
We acknowledge that one ventilator is a modest donation and that Mending Kids is not in a position to help everyone in the world who is battling this virus, but this ventilator may mean the world to the patients and their families who benefit from its use.
As the weeks of uncertainty and social distancing unfold and we adapt to this new reality, life (saving) goes on. Please stay safe and healthy and please let us know how you are doing. We are all in this together.
Together, we are mending kids.