Many of us who live here or just visit this wonderful part of the world are thankful to be able to enjoy our Mexican friends, the warm weather and the wonderful food and music. It seems to be a part of paradise. But how positive and sunny would your attitude be if your child or grandchild were born, perfect in every way, except for having a hole in the roof of their mouth?
Infants with this condition can face problems that impede their development: malnutrition, middle ear infections, hearing loss and the resulting inability to learn to speak.
The good news is that these problems can all be solved with restorative surgery but, if you are a poor family in Mexico, there is sometimes no help at all. In Puerto Vallarta, however, the International Friendship Club (IFC) has the solution. Because of support from fundraisers, like the IFC Home Tours, it has been providing free assessments and surgeries to children in this area who suffer from a cleft palate or cleft lip since 1985. Thirty-three years!
IFC’s medical team holds its consultation day every three or four months at the clubhouse, located at the corner of Libertad and Miramar in el Centro. The babies and infants come to IFC in varying degrees of health and, although many have received some sort of medical attention, some arrive in poor health and suffer from malnutrition.
Surgery for cleft lips is done on babies as young as three months but in order to survive anaesthesia the child must be in good health, so good nutrition is essential. Those with cleft palates will have their palates closed when they are between two and three years old. After the surgery, the wonderful Dra. Luz fits each child with an artificial palate that she makes and remakes with each growth spurt. The palate is kept in the child’s mouth with an adhesive, like Fixadent. Dra. Luz and our surgeons follow each child into adulthood, assessing and making recommendations for their care very few months.
The medical team of surgeons, nurses and an anaesthetist flies from Guadalajara to Puerto Vallarta, assesses the patients they have treated before and decides what help the new ones need. The next day the team moves into the CMQ hospital’s operating theatres to perform the surgeries required.
In a tremendous show of compassion, the medical team donates their time and CMQ donates its operating theatres. However, the costs of the flights from and to Guadalajara, the meals and accommodation for the team, the medical supplies that are used and the ongoing care is all paid for by IFC. The results of all this effort and generosity are smiles and gratitude of hundreds of local families over the last thirty-three years.
You can help “fix a hole in the roof” by joining the IFC as a member ($450 pesos), taking an IFC Home Tour (see www.toursforvallarta.com ) or making a donation (www.ifcvallarta.com). The children and their families thank you for your support.