In the United States, millions of people don’t have health insurance. Every day they fall deeper into debt because of medical procedures they can’t afford. Often, they don’t seek care because they can’t afford to pay. The system is deeply flawed. People suffer from a lack of medical coverage every day. In a country this rich, it’s shameful. Then again, it is illegal to deny care to someone in need. We know if we go to an emergency room anywhere in the country, we will get treatment. I think that safety net, while paltry and inadequate, protects us from the most heinous kind of medical neglect, and for that I’m grateful. We don’t see children going through their lives with cleft palates, for example. Early treatment spares these kids stigma, problems with speech, and infection. Treatable birth defects are treated, even if the parents are saddled with thousands of dollars of debt.
Of course, in most parts of the world, emergency medical care does not exist. All medical care is simply unavailable. For millions of people, doctors are hours away, completely inaccessible without transportation and money. When these people have children, they hope their children are healthy. If their children are not healthy, they try to cope. Surgical Volunteers International treats these children. They specialize in clefts, burns, and urological problems. Typically, these maladies can be treated successfully and these children can go on to lead normal, healthy lives. Surgical Volunteers International works worldwide, from India to Morocco, from Vietnam to Guatemala.
While reading about this organization I was struck by a story on their website. In 2007, Michael Soto, a 14-year-old boy from Guatemala City, was kidnapped and held for ransom. The kidnappers mutilated both of his ears to prove their seriousness to his family. Eventually, Michael was released, but both of his earlobes had been removed and he was ashamed. When Dr. Larry Holler, a surgeon from Texas Children’s Hospital and Director of Surgical Volunteer International, heard Michael’s story, he wanted to help. He arranged for a team of surgeons to reconstruct Michael’s ears with prosthetics. The surgery was a success and Michael returned home intact. The procedure was completely free, covered entirely by Surgical Volunteers International.
This organization is always looking for highly skilled medical professionals. Medical volunteers travel to developing countries to provide medical care to children and young adults. They fund 80% of trip expenses. Part of their mission is to train local doctors in modern medical techniques. So, not only do they improve the lives of every child they treat, they leave in their wake a team of better qualified local doctors to care for people in their absence. To learn more about their missions, visit the SVI blog.