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Wishbone Project still bringing smiles to kids

For over four years the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Wishbone Project has given children their smiles through cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries, and it has expanded to include other surgeries such as the removal of keloids and tumours from the ears and face.From October 2004 to September 30, 2008 the hospital has conducted 47 cleft lip surgeries, 54 cleft palate surgeries and 119 categorized as other surgeries bringing the total number of surgeries to 220.The Annual Report of the Project, for the period October 2007 to September 2008 said during the period eight cleft lip and 13 cleft palate operations were performed along with 30 other surgeries, bringing the overall number of surgeries to 51. Cleft lip is described as a cut or separation of the upper lip that can extend into the nose while cleft palate refers to when the roof of the mouth does not grow together properly. According to the report hospital CEO Sister Sheila Walsh said, "We seem to keep expanding the program as the need arises." She said as more medical groups conduct outreaches in the interior "they are diagnosing a number of facial congenital anomalies among children."The Wishbone Project was originally created to do cleft lip and palate surgeries for economically disadvantaged children however; the report said recently an orthopedic surgeon working in Mabaruma, Region One found six children with club feet. "We are in the process of bringing these children to Georgetown for surgery," Walsh said, adding that it was clear that the Wishbone Project has expanded its purpose and is "now beginning to work from the other end." Walsh said too she prays daily that God and generous individuals will help the hospital to keep the programme going.The Wishbone Project is funded completely by donations. According to the report the surgeon operates for a "pittance" and the hospital just covers costs. Sometimes the funds are used for transportation, by minibus and boat, from the interior and sometimes the hospital provides funds to keep the child and parent in the city for doctor's appointments. Wishbone Project partners from abroad are: The Smile Train, Bridget Zimmerman and William Tamburro.Stemming the tideThe hospital also offers other free programmes such as Stemming the Tide which offers care and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS. This service is funded by the Catholic Relief Services, Guyana Medical Relief and individual donations and allows more than 1000 infected men, women and children to benefit from holistic care.Another charitable programme the hospital hosts is its mobile clinic. Starting in 1996, the Mercy Mobile Health Clinic tries to fill the health care needs of poor people. The report said that this clinic has expanded from two sites to four and last year began treating residents of Princes Street who are afflicted with lung conditions, rashes and infections as a result of the Mandela Dump site located opposite their homes. The hospital is said to be working with human rights advocates to remedy the problem and in the meantime addresses the immediate health issues.Also, about three years ago Mercy hospital began partnering with the Remote Area Medical (RAM) teams to perform tests and surgical procedures too risky to be conducted in those areas. In return RAM processes pap smears from the hospital's high risk patients from the Stemming the Tide Programme and other high risk individuals who are poor. Each time the overseas-based RAM medical practitioners come to Guyana it costs the hospital $2M, "but it can be considered an investment on our part in the good health of Guyanese women in the future. Truly it is a worthwhile investment," the hospital said.Contributions to any of these programmes for underprivileged children from across the country or to the Stemming The Tide, mobile clinic, or RAM programmes can be made payable to St Joseph Mercy Hospital, 130-132 Parade Street, Kingston, Georgetown. Cheques can also be made payable to Guyana Mission Fund, Mercy Center 625 Abbott Road, Buffalo, NY 14220 (This is for a US tax exempt donation.) The public is advised to indicate on the cheque which programme their donations should benefit. (Nicosia Smith) From Stabroek News
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