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Working to Change Lives in India With Mission Smile: A Weekend of Surgeries

This weekend was a whirlwind!  On Saturday, the Mission Smile team completed 27 surgeries, and on Sunday they did an additional 28.

Twenty doctors, including eight surgeons, eight anesthesiologists, and four pediatricians, are part of the Mission Smile team healing cleft-affected people this week. Each person volunteered to travel to Kolkata, and except for being housed and fed, are working from sunup to sundown for free.

LWB Board Member Don White is on the ground in Kolkata this week as part of LWB’s partnership with Mission Smile‘s 100th Medical Mission, and he will share his observations for the rest of this blog:

I had the pleasure of spending an entire day in the operating room as an observer. The youngest patient, with a unilateral cleft, was five months old.

Their oldest patient, whose cleft repair failed years ago, was 68 years old. The team repaired lips, they repaired palates on kids from 18 months to adults, and they even performed craniofacial reconstruction on three different patients. It was exhausting just to watch. I can only imagine what it took out of the surgeons, students, nurses, and anesthesiologists who actually were performing these surgeries.

While the doctors did this amazing work, they were also teaching. A team of four medical students from Siem Reap, Cambodia is here to assist and learn along with a team of local medical students from the medical university in Kolkata. On one occasion, I watched as Dr. Manish Ghosh, a prominent plastic surgeon in Kolkata, took two of the local students under his wing, teaching them the nuances of cleft surgery. He even demonstrated how to stand to avoid hurting your back. This reminds me of the old saying, “Teach one, who will teach another to teach others also.”

On Sunday morning, Mission Smile organized “A Mile For Smile Walkathon” in the center of Kolkata. Over 300 people, including dignitaries and a couple of Indian celebrities, were on hand. It had great media coverage and proved to be a huge promotional event to support Mission Smile. I was asked to say a few words on behalf of the donors of LWB who made our involvement possible. Thank you, donors!

I am thrilled to be here and look forward to seeing more kids healed. According to Mission Smile, there is an estimated backlog of nearly 1,000,000 people in India in need of cleft reconstruction.

Cleft is not going away, but it is Mission Smile’s goal to eradicate the backlog and heal every cleft child as near to birth as possible. Of course, they will need support to meet this goal, but they are confident it can happen, one cleft at a time.

~Don White, LWB Board Member

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