Dr. Steve Krebs, Correctional Health Partners’ Chief Medical Officer, led a record-setting mission in the Philippines this early February. Over 115 kids benefited from cleft lip and palate surgeries performed by Uplift Internationale’s volunteer medical staff of 41 for over five and half days. The Denver-based charity organization organizes and funds missions to provide surgeries free of charge to correct facial deformities of children in rural, poverty stricken Philippines islands. This year’s mission accomplished almost double the surgeries performed during 2012’s mission.
“Cleft lips profoundly affect children’s ability to go to school and get a job. You can make a big difference in a kid’s life with a 70 year benefit,” says Krebs.
Uplift Internationale’s work is especially beneficial as Philippines’ residents must pay for healthcare upfront – a mandate preventing healthcare for most residents, who ultimately succumb to illness or trauma.
The medical staff worked out of a local district hospital that, while new, has no working plumbing or its own anesthesiologist on staff. The hospital offers rudimentary amenities, serving residents primarily for vaccinations and delivery of babies.
To accommodate the lack of plumbing, Dr. Krebs says, “We took gallons of hand sanitizer with us”.
Working out of two operating rooms, medical staff performed over 16 cleft palate surgeries a day.
Uplift Internationale is unique from other organizations because it trains locals whenever possible to perform surgeries themselves to aid future patients, Krebs says. He learned about the organization when mentioning to a patient that he had always wanted to visit the Philippines. That patient happened to be Dr. Jamie Yastorza, the founder of Uplift Internationale.
Because many kids require two surgeries for complete treatment, Uplift Internationale makes two-year rotations to a particular location. Next year’s mission will also take place on Sargio Island to treat children who could not undergo surgery this year due to illness or need a second procedure.
Mission participants are unpaid volunteers and cover their own travel expenses of approximately $2000.
Krebs strongly encourages PHP and CHP employees to volunteer. Nursing and non-medical outreach opportunities exist to treat patients, talk with patient family members, take pictures and help with paperwork.
Visit http://www.upliftinternationale.org to learn more about the organization.