LWB Community Blog

What in the World is a Cleft Exchange?


You may have heard the buzz about the 2014 Cleft Exchange, which will take place April 21-25, 2014 in Kaifeng, Henan.  If you are new LWB supporter, you may wonder what the excitement is all about.  And we are more than happy to share so you, too, can join in the excitement!

drnesstolanDr. Tolan and Dr. Ness examining a tiny patient.

An LWB Cleft Exchange is a week in which U.S. cleft specialists (surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses) and Chinese cleft specialists travel to a hospital in China to exchange knowledge and heal as many children as possible. American doctors share their knowledge of the latest developments and advances in the treatment of cleft lips and palates, and the Chinese medical staff share how they treat conditions that may be rare overseas.  The results are amazing: the Chinese medical staff gain invaluable knowledge of medical techniques, the American team gains greater knowledge of their specialty, and dozens of children receive lifesaving cleft surgery in the best conditions.

Day 4bennetBennett before surgery in 2012

It is impossible to measure just how many more children will benefit from this exchange in future years.  A medical exchange trip differs from a traditional mission as the focus is first on teaching quality medical techniques versus just the sheer number of surgeries performed. It is akin to teaching someone how to fish as opposed to providing fish.

cleftexchangedrnessAmerican and Chinese doctors in surgery together.

Two wonderful American doctors and veterans of past LWB cleft trips, Dr. Ness and Dr. Tolan, have once again volunteered their time for this year’s trip. Surgeons from across China will gather in Kaifeng for the exchange of information and demonstration of techniques. Drs. Ness and Tolan will be joined by a group of volunteers who will assist the team in everything from support in the operating room to holding babies to logging in children as they arrive.  It is a huge operation that requires hard work. But knowing that many children will be given new smiles with the new techniques the doctors have learned is extremely rewarding.

clefttrip2012nursesNurses and volunteers from 2012

Right now, our team is prepping for the trip.  Children are being identified, plane tickets have been secured, and medical supplies are being collected.  We hope that you will join us on our journey by following along with our preparations and considering a donation to support our efforts to share knowledge and create beautiful new smiles.

Emotionally and physically, these trips are very hard work. But knowing that many children will be given new smiles with the new techniques the doctors have learned is extremely rewarding.

Bennett after cropped

Just look at the end results for Bennett!

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