Rotaplast is fortunate to have some of the most talented surgeons in the profession donating their time and expertise on Rotaplast missions. Dr. Jann Johnson, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon with Kaiser Permanente in Terra Linda, California has volunteered her time to Rotaplast since 1999 when she participated on a mission to Argentina.
Dr. Jann Johnson, featured here with Sohag Medical Student, Dr. Abry evaluates young patient Malak. She has an ease and sensitivity with all people, and enjoys mentoring young local surgeons.
In Egypt, the importance of a beautiful image is not a superficial one; particularly for girls. In many of the local villages, marriages are agreed upon during adolescence. It is believed that marriage is not a decision based on individual happiness, but a collaborative partnership that includes acceptance from both sides of the family. Most families value the happiness of the son or daughter and the future bride and groom can refuse a proposal. However, in some remote areas of Egypt, superstition runs high and scars, birth defects, or health problems, such as asthma, are deemed a curse.
In six month old Mennah's case, her mother and aunt insist on eyeliner to enhance and draw attention to the eyes - the window to the soul in many parts of the Arab world. It is the hope of the family that Rotaplast daughters can repair Mennah's cleft lip and palate, thereby "lifting this curse" and allowing Mennah a future that includes marriage and children.
Rotaplast cannot guarantee marriage, but with the talents of Dr. James Hoyt, plastic and reconstructive surgeon and Rotaplast volunteer, Mennah's lip and palate can be fixed, and she will be able to speak, eat, and, of course, smile. Mennah, featured on the right is resting from her surgery. The photo is a little blurry because her mother is rocking her back to sleep. Although the mother did not want her own photo taken, she was smiling from ear to ear. Rotaplast hopes that Mennah and her mother will be smiling for years to come.
Rotaplast strives to ensure every child who needs cleft lip and/or palate surgery receives it. Sometimes, though, due to a patients blood count or medical history, they may not be an immediate candidate for surgery. In 1 & 1/2 year old Mabsota's case, she is simply too small and underweight to have surgery at this time - yet her care will continue. Majka Tolarova, Ph.D. MD and Mohammed Alassuty, DDS, both of Univeristy of Pacific Dental School in San Francisco, California have teamed up with pediatricians and surgeons to provide interim treatment. First, Mabsota's mother receives nutritional information to provide her little girl with the right foods to nourish her body. Next, Dr. Alassuty creates a premaxillary cup that will remain on Mabsota's lip for the next several weeks. It resembles a small pacifier and fits onto her top center portion of her lip and place tension on the premaxillary area, strecthing it so that it will help pull some of the tissue closer together, provide support and prevent tissue from her upper lip from shifting left to right.
Within the next few months, the Plastic Surgeons at the Sohag Faculty of Medicine will be able to surgically treat Mabsota's cleft lip and palate.
Mabsota, whose name means "happy girl" in Arabic, loves the camera and is sporting a grin.
Rotaplast volunteers completely fell in love with Youssef. An adorable and easy-going six month old little boy, Youssef was born with both a cleft lip and palate. From the local village of el- Osariat, Sohag. Youssef's mother learned of Rotaplast through Sohag case workers who visit small villages throughout the region.
Like many of our patients for the Rotaplast Egypt mission, Youssef and his mother traveled over three hours to visit The Sohag Faculty of Medicine so that Rotaplast surgeons doctors could evaluate his condition. Marwa, Youssef's mother is happy to hear the news that her little boy will receive the surgery.
Paul Fogle, Ph.D. (playing with Youssef) with University of Pacific in Stockton is a speech pathologist and Rotaplast volunteer. Paul works with children of all ages to evaluate their speech structure and provide guidance to parents so that they help their children develop language properly. Speech development can never begin to early.
By Rotaplast Co-Founder and Mission Director, Peter Lagarias
We celebrate July Fourth with a much needed day off. But first, rounds await. Chief Sib Schepel leads the team with fellow Dutch team member Dr. Rene Vreuls at a steady pace. Our other surgeons, Drs. Hootan Daneshmand, James Hoyt, Jann Johnson, and Kyle Song, all contribute with Egyptian pediatrican Dr. Mina Samir. Our patients are fine, and now we can proceed with our tour of the region of Sohag arranged by the hardworking Dr. Sherif Bakri. Our itinerary includes red white and blue.
Incense overwhelms our senses with visual clouds and full fragrance. Hundreds of parishioners crowd the church for the Sunday liturgy with several rows yielding their place to us. Chanting from multiple voices is familiar to Orthodox faithful although in Arabic. After having observed several mosques near our hotel and the university, we are now touring Coptic Orthodox Monasteries.
The lineage of Christianity in Egypt from this modern Coptic church is soon reflected in the twin Red and White Monasteries. Our guides inform that St. Mark arrived in Egypt around 60 A.D. Incredibly, these monasteries date from the Fifth Century A.D. Each contains massive outer walls of substantial rock masonry surrounding the courtyard and central areas. The inner churches each contain orthodox architecture with a cross shape and domes several stories high. One is built from white limestone rock while the second contains stone with a red hue.
Each of the monasteries contains intricate stone carvings from fallen hands. An Italian restoration team is working on recovering ikons covered by centuries of wear and tear and fumes. Deep in the White Monastery we are ushered into a small chapel. The stairway first goes down and then up and is lined with ikons. The wall contains large stone blocks,and, upon close inspection, often contain hieroglyphic inscriptions. After fifteen centuries, earthquakes, floods, deserts, and untold lives, the monasteries are still carrying on the words and traditions including an outdoor festival soon to commence at the White Monastery.
Our bus now heads across verdant fields near irrigation canals from the life giving Nile River. Known as the Blue Nile near its origins in Ethiopia and Kenya, we celebrate having completed the red white and blue trilogy on the Fourth of July. Here the Nile is variously deep royal blue, sometimes green in color. More than one of us have visited Can Tho, in Vietnam, compare the power and breadth to the Mekong River. Many farms with multiple crops from corn, cotton, date palms pass by, with homesranging from thatched roofed dwellings to incredibile multistory mansions. Competing transportation includes donkeys, motorbikes, trucks, tok-tok (motorcycle with covered sidecar taxi), bicycles and one camel.
Soon we arrive at the adjacent and ancient city of Akhmim. A four story excavation below ground contains a thirty six foot high statute of Merit Amon, daughter of Ramses II. The site is still active dating only from 1981 when constructions workers discovered the statute while digging a foundation for a new building. Now the supervising Egyptian archaeologist explains their work pointing to temple floors, Roman and Greek statutes from centuries later and a smaller statute of Ramses II. But it is Merit Amon which claims our attention with her incredible and striking figure towering over the excavation. We end the tour visiting an Egyptian cotton weaving factory but still discussing the recent discovery of the fabulous Merit Amon.
The success of Rotaplast missions rely on our expansive network of our volunteers.While many of our volunteers come from the medical community, non-medical volunteers serve an especially important role on our missions.Shirley Dean, from St. Helena California and Agnes Wolfenkamp of Holland are two of our non-medical volunteers.Both are members of the International Service organization Rotary International and both are compassionate, fun-loving women who love children.
Agnes, featured on left, and Shirley gear up for the day ahead.
For the Rotaplast Egypt mission, Shirley is the Ward Coordinator.This position works in tandem with the Pediatrician to admit and discharge patients, as well as coordinates pre and post operative care. In the photo above she is preparing the schedule and making bed assignments.
Agnes is the team’s recreation therapist, a position that requires a lot of energy!The recreation therapists plays with the children before surgery and provides comfort to our young patients after surgery.
Fatma's parents traveled five hours to bring him to Sohag Hospital and University in Sohag, Egypt so he can receive life changing surgery. Not only will the surgery improve the appearance of the lip, but dramatically improve his ability to speak. Stay posted for clinic day when you see Fatma's new smile!
Mustafa did not want to part with his balloon! He had prior surgery four years ago at age two; this week his father brought him to the Rotaplast clinic for follow-up so that Mustafa can have surgical revision on his cleft lip and nose, allowing for easier breathability and nasal flow. Prior to surgery he will meet with Rotaplast Volunteer, Speech Pathologist, Dr. Paul Fogle for a speech assessment and evaluation.
Malak, featured here with his mother, is a seven year old with a bilateral cleft lip and is one of our first surgical patients of the mission. His younger brother, Ahmed also has a cleft lip and will be treated by Rotaplast surgeons later in the week. Malak is just as friendly and handsome as his photo suggests and mom, dad, aunt and grandparents came to the hospital to provide support and love to Malak and his mother.
Although cleft lip and palate repair are at the forefront of Rotaplast missions, there are some reconstructive cases that are impossible to turn away. Takwa, is a soft spoken 11 year old who has experienced significant suffering. Four years ago, her mother and father died in a house fire. Takwa survived the fire, but her face, back and hands were severely burned, leaving her unable to move her hands due to the massive amounts of scar tissue that fused the fingers and hands together. Rotaplast surgeon, Jann Johnson removed much of the dead tissue from Takwa's hands, which will allow for greater mobility and use of her hands in the future. Takwa is shown here with her cousin.
Today was an exciting day at clinic for the Rotaplast team, Sohag Hospital medical staff and volunteers, and in-coming patients. Over 180 patients came to the clinic at Sohag Hospital to meet Rotaplast surgeons, speech pathologists, and dentists in hopes of receiving life-changing cleft lip and/or cleft palate repair surgery.
Ayah, featured on the right, is an 11 year old patient who awaits surgery. She is a vivacious, beautiful girl who has a cleft palate. Her mother, Mousra, pictured with Ayah, also has cleft lip and palate and has had two surgeries to correct it. This mother-daughter are warm, wonderful people and look forward to the surgery that will help improve Ayah's ability to eat and speak properly and drastically reduce the number of respiratory infections caused by her cleft lip and palate.
Dr. Majka Tolarova and her genetics team from University of Pacific Medical School in San Francisco are with the Rotaplast team and spent the day interviewing patients, conducting nutritional analysis, and drawing blood samples from patients as part of an extensive research program to help understand the underlying genetic causes of cleft palate.
Dr. Tolarova lectures local Sohag University Medical Students on the genetic component of cleft lip and palate.
Please continue to visit our blog. As the week unfolds we will keep you posted on the progress of our patients, show you before and after photos and share the incredible journey that keeps Rotaplast connected to communities throughout the world.