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Birth of a child – A journey to healing children

Birth of a child – A journey to healing children

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Fri Nov 21, 2014

by Chester Connell

An eight-person medical team arrived in St Vincent and the Grenadines on Saturday, November 8.

Their mission: in fewer than seven days, surgically make straight the spines of eight children. Five days later, eight young persons from four Caribbean islands, who had suffered from scoliosis,{{more}} an abnormal curvature of the spine, walked straight again.

In a happy and phenomenal story of synchronicity that began 12 years ago in Virginia, USA, with Vincentian Rotary Club St Vincent South member Albert Porter, who happened to be in the right place at the right time for the right reason (the birth of his daughter), the World Pediatric Project (WPP) began its journey to healing children of the Caribbean in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

On Albert Porter’s return to SVG, the Rotary Club St Vincent South sought the guidance and support of the dedicated Dr Bharati Datta. This devoted pediatrician has been helping children in SVG for over 30 years. This was an opportunity for her to do even more for her precious patients.

Every year since then, several times a year, medical teams visit St Vincent and the Grenadines and are hosted by the Rotary Club of St Vincent South principally, through the energetic efforts of two of its members, Keith Howard and Reggie Thomas.

Shortly after the programme’s inception, over a decade ago, an administrative branch of the WPP was formed in SVG, headed by retired senior nurse Jackie King. Through her personality-driven momentum the Dove Club was formed to assist in coordinating the logistics of bringing the medical teams and their young patients together.

Sadly, there are many applicants for the operation, but only a few can be chosen. The local and visiting team must consider many determining factors, such as degree and extent of the curve, is the spine still growing and changing, is it likely to worsen and the location of the curve.

This year, under the leadership of Virginia-based pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr Robert Tuten, the medical team included a hip surgery as part of their mission, bringing to nine the number of children assisted. That meant that the team literally worked back to back on surgeries.

Parents or guardians travel with their children from various Caribbean countries. The spinal fusion surgery involves the placement of stainless steel rods and surgical screws along the spines of the children, costing in the hundreds of thousands. The surgical operations are carried out at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital, facilitated by the hospital’s administration, doctors and staff who have been complimented for their efforts, working under less than optimum conditions. The WPP programme is funded by generous monetary donations and by the medical teams who give freely of their time and skills. In St Vincent and the Grenadines, certain kind and generous individuals give of their services to assist in the care, accommodation, feeding and transport of the visiting medical team.

The next team is expected to arrive early in 2015.