Putting Smiles Back on Children
The surgeon is obviously touched by these children as he thumbs
through piles of photos and slides. They are outcasts. Some have been abandoned.
Others have been killed as sacrifices. In third world countries, children
with facial deformities may get "less than human" treatment, says
Anthony Farole, DMD, Associate Professor at Jefferson Medical College and
Associate Director of the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
Dr. Farole's concern led him to Healing the Children, a Connecticut-based
organization that provides medical care to children in developing nations.
The oral and maxillofacial surgeon has taken three 10-day trips to South
America to donate his services to children with cleft lip and palate. Jefferson's
chief resident of oral and maxillofacial surgery accompanies him.
Cleft lip or palate is characterized by a separation between the sides of
the mouth, often requiring more than one surgery to correct. These deformities
occur at far higher rates in third world countries due to genetic inbreeding,
poor prenatal nutrition and environmental pollutants, Dr. Farole speculates.
Besides the physical shunning, patients have difficulty eating and speaking,
and are prone to nasal and ear infections.
Many families travel great distances to the villages in Guatemala and Columbia
where the medical team is based. "We'll screen 300 children and treat
120 of the most severe cases," says Dr. Farole, describing 12 to 14
hour days for which no one gets paid. The medical team must supply their
own instrumentation, involving weeks of calls to surgical supply companies
for donations. "It's absolutely exhausting ... a labor of love.
"As soon as the deformities are fixed, the children become members
of society and are valued again. From the parents, there are tears of gratitude
and big smiles. It's our privilege to do this and we get thanked besides.
I'll be doing this every year as long as I'm walking." If you'd like
to volunteer for Healing the Children, call Dr. Farole at 5-6215.