LWB Community Blog

The Importance of “Ten”: The 2015 Cleft Medical Exchange

We are just a few days away from the start of our 2015 Cleft Medical Exchange, and today we wanted to let you know about the importance of “ten” when it comes to the kids.


On our international trips, we use a formula of “10-10-10” which every child needs to meet in order to safely have surgery. The first ten signifies that each child must be 10 weeks old to undergo anesthesia. On this trip, every baby meets that first criteria, so we are good on this one so far. Sometimes we face the sad decision, however, of having to turn away a rural family with a tiny infant with cleft because they don’t meet this requirement. If any families come to see our team on this trip who have babies under ten weeks, we will make sure their children receive surgery at the proper time.


The second ten requires that they have a hemoglobin of 10 on their bloodwork which we will determine on Sunday. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells which carries oxygen throughout the body, and when this number becomes low, people develop anemia. Unfortunately, many children in orphanages have low hemoglobin levels as they have diets which are low in iron. Kids with anemia are much more likely to have serious complications during and after surgery, so the magic number of 10 is how we decide if we can safely operate.

Tyrone smilingTyrone in 2014

Last year we had a few children who were below this number and didn’t qualify. One of them was adorable Tyrone, who was discovered to be severely anemic last year on our cleft exchange. We were able to get him vitamins with iron which he took the whole last year, and thankfully he was finally able to have his palate repaired just last week!

Tyrone 4-2-15 7Tyrone last week!

The final magic 10 is for the minimum weight requirement for surgery. The babies who come to our team need to weigh 10 pounds in order to undergo their operations. While that seems like it would be an easy feat for any child of three months old, babies with cleft living in orphanages often struggle to gain the weight they need.


On this trip, we have five babies we are worried won’t make weight: Trae (four months old), Giana (3.5 months old), Minna (seven months old), Hudson (six months old), and Ozzy (nine months old). All five of these babies have difficulty feeding, and the last weights we were given on them show them below the ten pounds they need. We would love all good thoughts sent their way that they can make weight in time.


Another issue which can disqualify a child for surgery at many Chinese hospitals is having rasping or wheezing at the pre-surgery exam. On this trip, we are seeing two little boys who have repeatedly been unable to have surgery locally due to phlegm in their throats. Both Travis and Peter are coming to see our amazing pediatric anethesiologists to see if they feel they can safely be put under for surgery.


Travis is 15 months old, and little Peter is almost two years old. We sure would love to see them finally get the cleft surgeries they need, so we would appreciate all great thoughts sent their way as well.


Next Monday we will start our daily blogs with news from our cleft team in Kaifeng each day. Our team members begin leaving for China today and tomorrow, and we know the nannies and children are getting their bags packed as well for their journeys to Henan. May each of them have safe travels, and may many lives be changed in the coming week!

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