Taiwan medical team brings smiles to 35 Vietnamese children

Image courtesy of Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation

Image courtesy of Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation (By Taiwan News)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - A Taiwanese medical team traveled more than 1,000 miles to Hanoi, Vietnam, to offer free surgery for 35 children with cleft lips and cleft palate. The team, comprised of Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation volunteers and Chang Gung Memorial Hospital surgical physicians, worked with local physicians to carry out the successful medical mission in just two days.

The mission was joined by another two German physicians from Deutsche Cleft Kinderhilfe (DCKH).

Fifty years after the end of the Vietnam War, the Vietnamese are still coping with the effects of Agent Orange, which is believed to cause different types of birth defects, including cleft lips and cleft palate. A joint study by Vietnamese and Japanese scientists found a high rate of reproductive failure in women living in areas sprayed with the toxic substance during the war in comparison with a nearly unsprayed area. Scientist found twice as many cases of cleft lip and cleft palate, and the families of these children born with defects usually can’t afford a surgery due to economic disadvantages. It is a far-fetched dream for these children to get advanced medical treatment overseas to bring their smiles back.

The team, led by Dr. Lo Lun-jou (羅綸洲), the head of the department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, said that the participating Vietnamese physicians have completed the advanced training in Taiwan, enabling them to skillfully assist visiting physicians to carry out 35 operations in two days successfully.

The patients in the mission are children coming from impoverished families, including a four-year old girl surnamed Dinh, who was accompanied by her father and traveled four hours by bus from an underprivileged community to receive treatment after two previous surgeries failed.

Noordhoff Craniofacial Foundation indicated that the team will continue to send qualified Vietnamese physicians and health professionals to Taiwan for advanced training and plans to offer 200 economically disadvantaged patients the treatment free of charge this year.