Margaret Bryngelson (Kingston Rotarian) describes her experience as a non-medical volunteer in a recent mission to Venezuela where she assisted a medical team of doctors and nurses operating on children with cleft lip and palate disfigurations. Rotaplast (“Rotary” + “plastic surgery”), heavily supported by Rotary districts and clubs around the world, was started by doctors in the Rotary Club of San Francisco in 1992 to provide such services. Such reconstructive surgery is difficult to obtain in poor undeveloped countries. Venezuela’s Cumana Rotary arranged for 3 operating rooms in a local hospital to be available to the medical team. Over 10 days the team performed 99 surgeries on patients selected from among hundreds of families; many had traveled very far to reach the clinic in order to give their loved ones a chance for a better life. The immediate transformation after an operation is powerful to witness, as children can suddenly hear, speak, eat, and drink.
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