An Operation Put-A-Smile beneficiary 10 years later

Aug 21, 2014


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When she was barely two years old, Liza Jane (not her real name) suffered a horrific accident that would have left her scarred for life.

She suffered second degree burns on 30 percent of her body, including her face, neck, chest and abdomen when hot molten floor wax accidentally fell on her as she stood beside a table near the gas stove. Her injuries were exacerbated when the clothes she was wearing at that time also caught fire.

Fortunately for “L.J.”, as she is fondly called in her family, there were good Samaritans from all over the globe who helped her grow up as a normal child.

First, a local plastic surgeon Dr. Veronica Abellera did escharotomy and skin grafting on LJ’s lower lip and both jaws a month after her accident with grafts taken from her scalp and anterior legs.


The Interplast team hard at work in the operating room of the JR Borja Gen Hospital. (photo courtesy of RTNS. Mike Mendoza, Tonyboy Fernandez and Mike Baños)

An escharotomy is a surgical procedure used to treat full thickness (third-degree) circumferential burns. Since full thickness burns are characterized by tough, leathery eschar, an escharotomy is used primarily to counter compartment syndrome. Following a full thickness burn, as the underlying tissues are rehydrated, they become constricted due to the eschar’s loss of elasticity, leading to impaired circulation distal to the wound.

Next, during the 2nd Interplast Australia & New Zealand Mission Dr. Peter Haertsch, a plastic surgeon from Sydney, Australia, conducted a full thickness skin graft on her lower lip with grafts taken from LJ’s left groin area.

A year later, Dr. Michael McGlynn, from the 3rd Interplast Australia & New Zealand Mission, followed up with a release of contracture and repair and skin grafting on LJ’s lower lip.

Not the least, a team of Korean plastic surgeons did a release of contracture in LJ’s abdomen area and more skin grafting with skin taken from her buttocks and anterior legs.

Thus, throughout her elementary school days in Barra, Opol, Misamis Oriental where LJ finished her grade school and her high school days in Carmen, LJ did not have to undergo the trauma that disfigured burn patients, especially children, often had to suffer when their classmates would tease them cruelly about their injuries.

Now 16 years old and a freshman at one of Cagayan de Oro City’s universities taking up a course in communications, LJ looks forward to the time when she could pursue her dreams and career. The course includes foreign languages among them French and Spanish.

LJ’s mom Lorna works as a nurse at one of the city’s hospitals while her dad is a former seaman who decided to come ashore for good to look after his family. She has one sibling, a grade seven student enrolled in a school in Bulua.

INTERPLAST Australia & New Zealand is a non-profit organization which aims to improve lives through the treatment of disabling conditions which inhibit full engagement in society. This is done by providing access to surgical and allied health services in developing countries and by supporting and building capacity within local health services to enable the delivery of surgical and other related health care interventions.

For the past 15 years, the Rotary Club of Cagayan de Oro, in partnership with INTERPLAST Australia & New Zealand and the Committee of German Doctors for Developing Countries, has sought to change the lives of indigent children afflicted with cleft lips and cleft palates. Led by Dr. Mike McGlyn, INTERPLAST Australia & New Zealand has treated over 1,300 indigent children to date since the 1990’s.


Dr Kevin Ho checks one of his patients during a post op round at JR Borja Gen Hospital. (photo courtesy of RTNS. Mike Mendoza, Tonyboy Fernandez and Mike Baños)

This year, a surgical team has been successfully trained to confidently undertake cleft lip and palate surgery. During the team’s visit it is anticipated approximately 80 selected patients will receive treatment. If patients are selected for treatment, surgery is provided free of charge.

“It’s interesting to note that the team, through INTERPLAST Australia & New Zealand and the Rotary Clubs of Australia, shoulders most of their expenses for their 10-day missions,” said Project Chair PAG Chito B. Sarraga.

The Rotary Club of Cagayan de Oro, for its part, coordinates the entire program, helps the visitors identify and screen beneficiaries, provides security and in-land transportation, and their other needs.


Dr Kevin Ho briefs Mayor Oscar Moreno in the operating room. (photo courtesy of RTNS. Mike Mendoza, Tonyboy Fernandez and Mike Baños)

“Due to the very nature of the project, it has sparked the empathy and generosity not only of Rotarians, but also many other donors and benefactors,” said Director AG Dodie A. Lagrosas. “For this year, the City Government of Cagayan de Oro through Mayor Oscar S. Moreno and the J.R. Borja General Hospital which is hosting the mission through Dr. Ramon Nery, also joined the project.”

Started by PP Caloy Gorospe in Rotary Year 1998-1999, “Operation Put a Smile” has become the signature project of the Rotary Club of Cagayan de Oro. All of the Australian doctors and nurses who participated in the project over the years have been made honorary members of the RC of Cagayan de Oro.


–  I N D N J C –

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