Monday, August 14, 2006

Children of China Pediatrics Foundation

I'm putting up the entire atricle because I think it's such a terrific story. These people do incredible work. You can learn more here:

Children of China Pediatrics Foundation

One week, dozens of operations
Last spring, Dr. David P. Roye Jr. performed 28 operations in five days.

This may sound like a record number of surgeries, but it is not unusual for the dedicated medical professionals who volunteer for Children of China Pediatrics Foundation.

Roye is a professor of clinical pediatric orthopedic surgery at Columbia University and a Pleasantville resident who has been traveling overseas to do charitable medical work since 1983. His travels have brought him to Africa, Eastern Europe, and China. Roye is a true veteran of the foundation, having been on every mission so far, and recently serving as Medical Director for the missions. His latest Chinese excursion in May 2006 brought him to Nanjing, just south of Shanghai, where he worked 13-hour days performing surgery on orphans.

Since its beginnings in 1998, the U.S.-based foundation has sent eight missions to China. Each mission lasts five to seven days. More than 250 procedures have been performed on Chinese orphans with serious medical problems, mostly physical deformities. The operations increase the children's chances for adoption and give them a better quality of life. The missions also allow Chinese and American doctors to exchange knowledge.

Roye's team of 28 included Dr. Philip LaRussa of Larchmont and Dr. Katherine Biagas of Scarsdale.

China possesses great medical technology but the average citizen often struggles to pay for the benefits.

"One of the problems is that China has no real insurance," says Roye. "People have to pay cash for even the simplest surgeries, which can cost a year's salary. The lack of infrastructure makes it hard to get basic medical care."

The American surgeons treat diseases like polio and fix clubfoot, cleft lip, cleft palate and congenital hand defects. For extreme cases, the foundation sends patients to the U.S., where they are adopted by a American family before undergoing surgery in an American hospital.

The surgeries can help assimilate a child who has been made an outcast due to physical defects.

Roye describes one particularly difficult surgery on a memorable patient, a young girl.

"She had so much bowing of her legs due to rickets, and was absolutely brilliant. She had taught herself some English and all of the infants could only be comforted by her. During the operation to straighten her femurs, there was an electrical power outage, and we had to hand-ventilate and use flashlights to see what we were doing," he says. "I had the opportunity to see her the following year and she was absolutely fabulous — for me it was totally rewarding."

LaRussa, a professor of clinical pediatrics at Columbia University, is equally enthusiastic.

"The kids from the orphanages are very well-behaved and happy for the attention and care that they are getting," he says. "It's hard to leave without feeling you should take some home with you."

La Russa fulfilled another part of the foundation's mission — exchanging medical knowledge with Chinese doctors and medical students. He delivered a lecture on HIV.

"Unlike most Westchester kids, these orphans have no options," says Roye. "Treating a group of people with so much need makes you feel so good. I regard the experience as totally selfish. It allows me to come back, work harder, and be more passionate about my profession."


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