Racing legend Mario Andretti donated his time and driving skills for ReSurge this weekend. At last year’s Transformation Gala, a chance to meet and ride with Andretti was auctioned. Sara Hirsch, ReSurge board member, had the winning bid and the wonderful opportunity to be driven by Andretti at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma this weekend.
"It is an honor to be able to help ReSurge,” said M.J. Castelo, who manages Andretti Petroleum and offered the unique opportunity to ride with Andretti. “The return on investment is not only measurable, it is impressive."
ReSurge is deeply grateful to Andretti, Castelo and Hirsch for their generosity and help in providing life-changing surgeries in developing countries. Join us for the 2014 Transformations Gala on October 18 and have the chance to bid on similar exciting events for you and your family.
ReSurge is proud to be an official partner of this year's Bay Area Global Health Film Festival - happening tomorrow night, August 19, at Public Works in downtown San Francisco.
Don't miss this great festival highlighting road traffic injuries globally and locally. We'll be there with bells and whistles, carrying the ReSurge banner and sharing with folks about our work. If you're in the area, come out and join us!
WHERE: Public Works in San Francisco
WHEN: Tuesday, August 19 at 6pm
TICKETS: $10 ($7 for students!)
We hope to see you there!
If you read our blog post from last week, then you know that our partnership with REAL SKIN, a project that developed out of our collaboration with Stanford's Design for Extreme Affordability course, is making huge strides in Nepal.
How Does It Work?
By Katie Windham, ReSurge office volunteer
I first became aware of ReSurge about three years ago, in the spring of my eighth grade year. I was stressed about a school assignment, one of the biggest of the year. We were supposed to write a biography about someone we knew who inspired us, and I was determined to find the perfect person. When my mom mentioned Sara Anderson, ReSurge’s chief communications and advocacy officer, I knew my search was over.
I had known Sara for a number of years, since she married one of my parents’ best friends, but in eighth grade I probably knew more about her dog than I did about her work. Pretty much the only thing I knew was that she had gone to Nepal to help burn victims, which I thought was the coolest thing ever.
In the weeks that followed, I got a slightly better idea of what ReSurge did. I was appalled to learn of how common burn injuries were, especially in India. I found myself thinking, time and time again, but my great-grandmother cooked over an open fire in a sari! What if something had happened to her? Would my grandmother even have been born? Would I? The fact that there were people living with that reality every day horrified me.
A lot of things have changed for me since the end of eighth grade. I started high school, then moved across the country to the Washington, DC metro area. But I never could forget what I had learned about burn victims and their struggles. We haven’t been able to see Sara and her family as much since we moved, but when I decided I wanted to volunteer somewhere this summer, she was one of the first people I thought of.
I didn’t want to go just anywhere; I wanted someplace where everyone was focused on making a difference in the world, where they changed people’s lives. ReSurge was the perfect option.
Coming into this internship, I thought I knew what ReSurge did. There were people in developing countries who were born with clefts or who accidentally burned themselves. ReSurge did plastic surgery to help them. Sitting comfortably in the US, I understood that this work was important, but in the same way that I know that unicorns are beautiful. I had so much distance from the problem that I couldn’t fully understand it until I started volunteering and looking through patient stories.
That was when I realized that they’re not just using plastic surgery to make someone look better – they are literally turning that person’s life around.
I don’t know anything about surgery. I have never suffered the stigma of a cleft, or had a burn that a little cold water couldn’t fix. But all it takes is a pair of eyes to understand the immense importance of what ReSurge does. Just in the couple of weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve learned so much, both about the countries and patients they work with and about how organizations like ReSurge are run, and I’m so grateful to everyone here for the chance to help them.
Katie has been volunteering this summer with the ReSurge communications team at our office in Sunnyvale, CA.
Stanford medical student Lawrance Cai and Adnan Iqbal, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business student, are in Kathmandu, Nepal this week for further research on their Design for Extreme Affordability project, Real Skin. In partnership with ReSurge’s team in Nepal, Real Skin is working to establish Nepal’s first ever skin bank to reduce burn wound infection and save lives.
“Lawrence and I have had an amazing first week here on the ground working alongside Dr. Shankar Rai (ReSurge surgical outreach director) and his incredible team,” said Adnan. “We are continuously inspired by their passion for patient care and commitment to serving those who would otherwise be underserved.”
In the last week, they have met with the burn surgical team, burn care nurse team, skin bank manager, lab team, microbiology team, patients, patient families and more.
“All in all, things are progressing smoothly and our protocols have been very well received (and are much needed to help make the skin bank a reality). We're looking forward to week two and inching closer to Nepal's first ever skin bank,” concluded Adnan.
ReSurge is proud to partner with Stanford and these amazing students in an effort to help save the lives of burn victims in Nepal. With just the pilot project in our one hospital, Real Skin estimates that approximately 70 lives could be saved in a year.
For more about Real Skin, check out their blog.
Photos courtesy of Lawrence Cai and Adnan Iqbal
There is a boy in Ingenio San Antonio, Nicaragua who acts much older than he is. Even though he is only 8 years old, he carries himself like a gentleman, greeting strangers with a handshake and a polite smile. His name is Lesbi, but among ReSurge’s medical partners and volunteers he is known as “the little cowboy.”
Lesbi lives with his family on the sugar cane plantation that drives the local economy in Ingenio San Antonio. Like many households in the area, his parents earn a living by working on the plantation. Their life is modest but comfortable, and is dictated by the ebb and flow of the planting and harvesting season. It was during one of these seasonal transitions when Lesbi had his accident.
Each year after the sugar cane is harvested, the fields are cleared with fire to prepare for planting the following year. Two years ago, when the fields were being burned, Lesbi was on his way to get his horse when he tripped and fell directly onto the scalding embers, using his hands to break his fall.
The open wounds on his hands healed but thick scars formed, tightening the skin and fusing some of his fingers together. It became difficult to pick things up or hold a pencil. When Lesbi’s mother heard that a team of visiting doctors was coming to the area, she brought him to the local hospital to see if anything could be done.
The visiting doctors were a group of ReSurge medical volunteers who had joined forces with a team of our Nicaraguan medical partners to provide reconstructive surgical care for the community. The team met with Lesbi and his mother and decided surgery would help restore function to Lesbi's hands.
On the day of his surgery, Lesbi bravely let go of his mother’s hand and walked by himself back to the OR. The surgery went beautifully. The hand that was operated on now has more range of motion and gripping capability—allowing Lesbi to write, draw and hold things more easily.
Lesbi charmed the entire ReSurge team with his polite confidence and stories. His eyes lit up when he spoke of his horse, earning him his “little cowboy” nickname. Most appropriately, when Lesbi came to say goodbye to the doctors and nurses, his recovering hand was tied up in a sling his mother had fashioned from a bright red bandana. The perfect detail to complete our favorite cowboy!
ReSurge volunteer anesthesiologist Dr. Mike Beach was particularly taken by Lesbi. He asked Lesbi if he could ride a horse by himself. Lesbi responded that not only could he ride a horse by himself, but he would be happy to teach Dr. Beach how to ride, too!
In the province of Cañar, Ecuador, there is a small town called Biblian where a young family lives. The newest member of the family is Miguel and his life is about to change.
Miguel is only a few months old and was born with a cleft lip and palate. His parents had learned through an ultrasound before he was born that he would be different, but they were determined to find help so that Miguel would not grow up facing the stigma and difficulties of someone with a cleft. They turned to the Internet to research different options and came across a YouTube video about Fundacion Rostros Felices (Happy Faces Foundation), ReSurge's local partner organization in Ecuador, founded and run by ReSurge surgical outreach director Dr. Jorge Palacios. There they learned about an innovative pre-operative treatment being used for infants with cleft palates called nasoalveolar molding or NAM.
NAM is a procedure used to help align an infant’s gums, bone and nose before surgery is performed to repair a cleft lip and palate. It alleviates the tension at the surgery site, which helps improve the surgical result and often reduces the total number of surgeries the child needs over the course of his or her life. This is especially important for families like Miguel’s who may not be able to afford the 8-9 hour journey to the local hospital more than once.
Miguel is currently undergoing his NAM treatment. Eventually he will also have surgery to repair his cleft and his smile will no doubt be a testament to the value of a comprehensive approach when providing reconstructive surgery.
We thank our dedicated partners in Ecuador and wish Miguel and his family all the best!
Last week, ReSurge was featured in a great radio piece on Marketplace, a program by American Public Media that is broadcast on NPR.
The piece highlights our collaboration with Stanford University's Design for Extreme Affordability course and the work those students did on interventions to prevent deaths and disabilities caused by burns. It features an interview with Dr. Shankar Rai, head of our surgical outreach program in Nepal, with whom the students worked to refine their products and services.
If you missed it when it aired, you can still check it out on the Marketplace website, where you can read or listen to the full story and see photos of Shankar interacting with the students.
Photo: Rowan Moore-Gerety
Each year, ReSurge's medical volunteers from all over the country and from other nations travel to the countries where we work to help developing world surgeons with their backlog of cases -- and to help train local medical professionals. Our volunteer surgical team and visiting educator programs offer volunteers the ability to work with medical colleagues abroad while helping transform the lives of children and adults we serve who are in need of quality surgical care.
Thanks to support from people like you, we are well underway with preparations for our next trip season! We have published our trip schedule for the next year and invite you to view it on our website.
We look forward to changing the lives of thousands more children and adults in the year to come, and we invite you to join us along the way!
Photo by Darcy Padilla
This year marks ReSurge's 45th anniversary of providing life-changing reconstructive surgery around the world. We invite you to celebrate with us throughout the year as we reflect on our history and the thousands of lives that have been transformed thanks to our international medical partners, volunteers and supporters like you.
Founded in 1969, ReSurge began with one man and his vision to help people with no access to surgery. Dr. Donald Laub, a plastic surgeon at Stanford University, repaired the cleft lip and palate of a young boy from Mexico, who lived in isolation and was unable to attend school because of his condition. Dr. Laub was moved by the almost instantaneous changes in the boy’s life as a result of the surgery. Inspired to help others like this boy, he established the first organization of its kind dedicated to providing reconstructive surgery for people living with disabilities and deformities in developing countries. He called it Interplast (later renamed ReSurge International).
Over the years, ReSurge expanded. More and more medical volunteers learned about our work and offered to donate their time and skills. By 1979, more than 4,000 surgeries had been provided around the world. Other organizations would eventually form with similar missions, but ReSurge remained a pioneer in the field, garnering a global reputation for quality, safety and its commitment to sustainability.
Building off the success of the earlier years, we saw an opportunity to expand our impact even further by partnering with trusted, local medical professionals—a bold strategy at the time. In 1999, we established our first Surgical Outreach Program in Nepal, allowing us to provide quality surgical treatment year-round.
Today, ReSurge maintains 10 permanent Surgical Outreach Programs in eight countries, and we have provided nearly 105,000 surgeries for children and adults around the world. More than 80 percent of the procedures we provide are performed by local surgeons with ReSurge oversight, training and support. Our efforts to train and empower local medical professionals are only strengthening as we continue to pave the way for increased access to reconstructive surgery.
As we look back on decades of growth and global impact, we thank our partners and volunteers for their tireless dedication and invaluable skills. We also thank our friends and supporters who believe in what we do, and we look forward to transforming exponentially more lives in the next 45 years!
Please join us in giving a warm welcome to the two newest members of our staff at our headquarters in Sunnyvale, California:
Recently moving to the Bay Area from Atlanta, Georgia, Amanda joins ReSurge after completing her M.S. in International Affairs at the Georgia Institute of Technology. While in graduate school, Amanda worked for a refugee resettlement agency and spent a summer studying in Seoul, Korea. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Armstrong Atlantic State University and interned with the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Amanda looks forward to collaborating with the development team and streamlining database management processes and procedures to better serve our mission. When not in the office, Amanda can be found exploring local hiking trails and beaches with her dog.
Jay Dumanian, Medical Programs and Logistics Coordinator
Jay just moved back to the Bay Area and joined ReSurge this month after receiving a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. At Dartmouth, he organized and led climbing trips with the Dartmouth Outing Club, volunteered as a campus EMT, and assisted with research on attention and stereotype perception in a social psychology lab. Originally from Los Altos, Jay is excited to be contributing to ReSurge's public health mission and to be back near family, friends, and Yosemite on the West Coast.
Welcome to ReSurge, Amanda and Jay!
Six-year-old Rosa in Peru didn’t want to go to school because she was badly bullied by other students. She was born with a bilateral cleft lip and other kids teased her because of her appearance.
She had received surgery elsewhere to repair it, but the outcome of the surgery was not good and left her lip looking puffy and abnormal. The situation was very difficult for her and for her parents, who could only watch as their little girl internalized the negative things other children said about her and refused to go to class.
But then they found Dr. Percy Rossell Perry, our Surgical Outreach Program director in Lima. He and his team performed surgery to correct her condition with beautiful results. Now apart from a couple of faint scars, her lip looks like any other little girl’s.
Dr. Rossell Perry says now she is attending her classes every day, making her parents very happy. They expressed how deeply thankful they are for this wonderful opportunity to have Rosa's life changed forever, and we at ReSurge are grateful to Smile Train for their support which made it possible.
Carmina is an artist. In what little spare time she has had when not raising three young kids at their home in La Paz, Bolivia, she has spent the past few years learning painting and creating beautiful works of art.
When you meet her, Carmina looks and acts very youthful—but her hands tell a different story.
At age 38, Carmina has severe rheumatoid arthritis. She began developing the disease 20 years ago when she was a teenager, and it has progressed to the point where she can no longer use her hands to paint or even to open her paint bottles. She taught herself to use her left hand two years ago, but now even using that hand is too painful.
"I have a painting that I started but haven't worked on for one and a half years," Carmina said. "I look at it every day thinking, 'Tomorrow I'll work on it,' but I never do."
With her joint defomities and the painful swelling she experiences, her arthritis also interferes with her ability to care for her children. The disease has already begun inhibiting her ability to open and close her hands.
Dr. Jorge Terrazas, our partner surgeon in Bolivia, has taken measures to try to prevent further joint damage and to restore functionality to her hands. He operated on her right hand earlier this year, and in May when our volunteer surgical team was in La Paz they successfully performed surgery on her left hand to enable her to open and close it again.
Carmina has a long road ahead of her, with physical therapy and coping with the symptoms of her arthritis, but the surgical care she has received from ReSurge has kept her optimistic. She hopes that after her surgical care and recovery, she will once again be able to paint and can finally finish that painting.
Today the Frontline Health Workers Coalition—of which ReSurge is a member—posted this great Q&A interview with Drs. Shafquat Khundkar and Nancy Chee, who were recently honored by The REAL Awards.
What motivates you to do the work you do every day?
Shafquat: When you look at the smile of a mother who had a cleft lip or a burned child who has had a surgery and their limbs can now move easily – that smile, that pleasure, is unsurpassed by any pleasure money can buy. I have had grandmothers come over hundreds of miles just to see, ‘who is the person who changed my grandchild? I want to see that person.’ This is a feeling that no one else gets. I can't explain it in words, but it is a real driving force. It just keeps you going. I know that for many people money is very important, but this is something different. This is something great.
Nancy: My lifelong work began as a child, knowing I wanted to help people. Growing up in an immigrant family, I learned about core values and that you love and care for one another through all things, good or bad. While attending college, I fell into a career through which I could live out these values, as an occupational therapist. I have learned so much from other amazing health care providers who have taught me not just professional skills, but also how to show compassion for your clients. Having been at this for more than 30 years, I still love my work and have the same desire to help others that I had as a child. It is also refreshing to be able to share my experiences and teaching with students in a graduate school program. I hope they may be inspired to share their work and help others as frontline healthcare workers here and abroad.
In Bangladesh or the countries you’ve visited, have you seen a shortage of health workers? If so, what do you believe is the cause of that shortage?
Nancy: In every single country I have visited and worked in, there have been shortages of health care providers. Causes for this include access to the education needed to train qualified workers, and opportunities and resources for individuals to become health care workers. Many people in underserved countries are poor and can manage only to survive day to day in making ends meet. Being able to get an education beyond the basics would allow people to seek careers as doctors, nurses or therapists. But once educated, the challenge is to retain these workers to stay and care for their own people.
Shafquat: Yes, certainly. There are a lot of factors. One is a short scope for training. There is also a shortage of people who instill a feeling of doing this for people and inspire people to continue to do reconstructive surgery. It’s the attitude, the inspiration – there is a shortage of that. There must be something that attracts people.
What kind of need have you seen for reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation in these countries?
Shafquat: There’s such a huge need for reconstructive surgery in Bangladesh. With various incidences of burns, trauma and other conditions that require reconstructive surgery, and with longevity increasing, we are bound to see the need for it on the rise. For years to come, Bangladesh will require reconstructive plastic surgery. Even if we try to do cosmetic surgery, that will not compose more than 10 percent of the work.
Nancy: I work in the area of hand reconstruction and follow-up care, and not being able to use one’s hand, great or small, can affect the life and function of individuals. This can be physical, psychological and emotional. On the outside, one can be seen as disabled and deformed, especially with burn injuries, but this also affects one’s psychological and emotional being. Also, in many cultures, people with injuries or deformities can be shunned or be used for money - begging to make a living. There is such a shortage of services and care for these patients. Going abroad is one small way I feel that I can contribute directly to patients, but more importantly, to the knowledge of local staff, which will continue the care after volunteers leave.
Why is it important for the international community to put more funding toward frontline health workers?
Nancy: Because that is the only way health care can best be provided and sustained in each community. It is honorable for people travel to volunteer in underserved communities, but after we leave, the work and care can only continue through the frontline health workers in these communities. Countries need to invest more funding within their own borders if they want to ensure that their people can receive long-term care. This can be direct financial support to hospital, clinics and workers, but there also has to be an investment in education and opportunities to train future health care workers.
Shafquat: We in developing countries can’t do it alone. We need support. There are NGOs that are supporting us, but they also need support. It is the responsibility of the U.S. government to make sure that these NGOs can do that. NGOs know which people in the field are the right persons to work with, and through them, they can work to improve health in local communities.
As part of the ReSurge comprehensive care strategy, our international medical partners offer physical and speech therapy at select surgical outreach programs. This is a critical component of the services we provide to ensure that the outcomes of our surgeries are positive and lasting.
Recently, our partners in Nepal hosted a speech camp in Butwal for patients who had undergone cleft lip and palate repairs. The event was hugely successful and many patients were able to attend and participate. Parents of the children were also invited to join the camp to learn how to help their children with different speech exercises. Thank you to Suman Niroula with our surgical outreach program for the great photos!