Ever since I started the foster home, I was fascinated with the idea of arranging an opportunity for surgeons to come to China with a medical team and help the babies. My very first medical mission was at one of the fanciest hospital in China, the Shanghai United and I was there when Dr Lazareff and his team did 13 Spina Bifida surgeries in December 2005. I was so impressed that he would leave the US and come to China and help children that he often never heard of again.
This dream stayed in the background while I traveled often to go with the children from Starfish to find doctors on medical missions. I watched and learned, hoping that one day I would get a chance to do something like this. I asked everyone I knew and was repeatedly told to give up, that it could not be done. I had the idea of doing surgeries in Xian and after 16 months, the answer was still: It is not possible. One day I was asked to see about an orthopedic mission and called the only person whom I thought could help, the director of the Xian Red Cross hospital, who had offered free surgery a few months earlier to one of my babies. He had said to contact him if I found a medical team. It was a shot in the dark. He graciously agreed to see us. At the end of the conversation I could see that the whole idea that the team was proposing was not going to happen. I asked if he knew other hospitals that would be interested. I got on the phone and called the director of the biggest children's hospital in Xian. We were driven over there and in an hour we got in touch with everyone who could make a decision at Xian Children's Hospital (XCH). They told us that they were eager to help us, and it gave me so much hope that they wanted to have medical teams come often.
A few weeks later we submitted our Dutch medical team's dates and what they were planning to do and soon we had their medical requirements to issue licenses to operate in China. XCH were so extremely generous in the hospital fees and asked a fraction of the usual costs. I extend my most grateful thanks to the XCH and the doctors and staff who worked with us. We made history! In the 80 years the hospital had existed they had never had a foreign medical team.
We had everything ready in China but never did we expect that volcano erupting. It grounded the whole medical team and caused a week long wait and cut the time in half, and we helped less babies than we wanted. The upside was that the medical team was on TV and that helped to get them seated on a flight to China sooner. However, eight babies had their lives changes and that was worth everything. Dr Johan also looked at David and made some recommendations for his care in the future, and he later went back to Guiyang, but not before we had all fallen in love with him. He is already tri-lingual (Mandarin, English and Dutch), as his foster family is Dutch. We also found a boy with a cleft who needed surgery but his parents did not abandon him. The doctors found a previously undiagnosed heart condition that needs to be taken care of first. I feel that if we could offer some care and information right after birth that so many of the children will not be abandoned.
My most grateful thanks to Dr Johan Verhof, Dr Hing Gwan Kho, Astrid Paauwen, Elise van Haalen for their superb effort in helping the children. I got to watch them in action and I have to say I covet their skills, especially since I think I would be very happy to do something similar. I just loved watching Dr.Johan transform a baby's face. A great gift that will stay with the children through their lives.
I also have to thank Elsie and Tineke from Care 4 Tina Foundation, who raised the money for this medical trip when they were in Holland. They worked so hard on that and have had so many creative ideas that they have still to execute, that there will be even more funds for the babies. They both feel so passionate about this and it is wonderful to see what a difference they can make.
The result of the medical mission: Eight babies got surgery, the Dutch and the Chinese formed wonderful new relationships, Elise and Tineke are working on getting two doctors invited to Holland for a trip to learn more about special techniques for cleft palate surgery. It would seem that the Dutch medical team plans to come back again next year. As for me, I fulfilled a dream. I am working on more medical missions, three teams before the end of the year, if everything goes well. Organizing a medical mission check that, a dream fulfilled.
Life, love and laughter,
Starfish Children's Services
US Tax Number: 20-4682916
At Starfish, we have taken care of 106 children to date, arranged more than 80 surgeries and had 30 international adoptions, so our little starfishes live all over the globe: the US, Netherlands, Norway, France, Spain and in China. Our latest four adoptions took place in two weeks in Mat 2010 and we now have babies in three new places: Sweden, Denmark and Canada and a new US state, Georgia. We currently have 47 babies under the age of 3 in two foster homes. We have ten babies matched and we are waiting for their families to come and get them. Starfish just recently did our fist medical mission, in cooperation with a team from Holland and the Xian Children's Hospital. Eight babies had cleft surgeries.
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