Team off to Fiji

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Jus­tine Glu­cina

Fi­jian chil­dren born with fa­cial de­for­mi­ties will no longer draw stares thanks to a ded­i­cated team of Auck­land med­i­cal ex­perts.

Two sur­geons, two nurses and an anaes­thetist are this week pro­vid­ing free re­con­struc­tive surgery at Lau­toka Hospi­tal with hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan­i­sa­tion In­ter­plast.

Pa­tients suf­fer­ing from burn scars, de­for­mi­ties such as cleft lip and palate, nerve and ten­don dam­age, skin tu­mours, and nose, face or jaw frac­tures, will all ben­e­fit.

Plas­tic and re­con­struc­tive sur­geon Martin Rees is part of the team that left on Satur­day.

“It’s help­ing un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren and try­ing to give them a start in life they wouldn’t oth­er­wise have,” he says.

Mr Rees says the num­ber of con­gen­i­tal de­for­mi­ties in the Pa­cific Is­lands is high.

Some ba­bies have cleft palates so wide they can fit adult fin­gers through the gap, mak­ing it hard for them to swal­low or eat.

“It’s see­ing the joy on the faces of the moth­ers when, af­ter surgery, the chil­dren can learn to talk prop­erly and when they smile, they have a nice smile.”

Mr Rees, who has worked with In­ter­plast for 24 years, says fa­cial de­for­mi­ties are in­hibit­ing and make it harder to suc­ceed in life.

He says most Pa­cific Is­land doc­tors are only trained to a com­mu­nity level. Many rely on aid from or­gan­i­sa­tions such as In­ter­plast.

Mr Rees and cleft and cra­nial fa­cial sur­geon Zac Moaveni hope to com­plete 60 to 80 op­er­a­tions.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Surgery saviour: Martin Rees is part of a team fly­ing to Fiji to per­form free life chang­ing surgery for fam­i­lies who can’t af­ford it.

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