Israeli surgeons recently returned from Ghana after operating on children who suffered from facial deformities. Led by Dr. Omri Emodi of Rambam Medical Center, the doctors partook in an international mission to Africa, which treated 155 children.
Together with his colleague, Dr. Zach Sharony, a plastic surgeon at Rambam, they were in Africa on a mission organized by Operation Smile, a US-based humanitarian organization, along with a team of surgeons and medical staff from 12 countries.
“If a child has a facial deformity, it can affect eating, drinking, speaking and, of course, his or her own self-image,” Emodi said in a statement. “You walk with a sign on you, especially in Africa. You could easily be an outcast.”
United by their desire to help
Patients, ranging in age from a few months old to their 20’s, came from all over Ghana, some as far as 500 miles away. Most of the operations were on cleft lips and palates, along with other, more complex surgeries on facial deformities.
Working non-stop in seven makeshift surgery rooms in Ho, the capital city of Ghana, the doctors operated on many patients in challenging circumstances. They were part of an international team of surgeons, technicians, nursing staff and anesthesiologists assembled by Operation Smile. All costs associated with the surgeries were paid for by Operation Smile.
The 155 operations were completed in eight days. “You work with a team you do not know… But once you get into the rhythm, everyone becomes one team, motivated by the desire to help these people,” Emodi says.
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The surgeries take only one hour to complete, but can change the child’s whole life. “The mission is so satisfying,” he says.
Transcending political boundaries
This is not the first time Sharony and Emodi take part in an international medical mission. The two have already gone to Vietnam, Ethiopia and the Philippines, treating dozens of patients in each country. The Rambam Medical Center has also treated patients from war-torn Syria and other neighboring countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations.
Says Emodi: “I feel privileged to be able to make a difference in children’s lives.”