By John Warren
For unknown reasons there are a high number of children in this area who are born with cleft palates.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are openings or splits in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate) or both. They result when facial structures that are developing in an unborn baby don’t close completely.
Having a baby born with a cleft can be upsetting. It is difficult for the baby to eat and, later in life, their abnormal appearance can cause social stigmatism at school, so the quality of life for such children is severely diminished. However, cleft lip and cleft palate can be corrected. In most babies, a series of surgeries can restore normal function and achieve a more normal appearance with minimal scarring.
In 1986 Ron and Celia Walker were living in Puerto Vallarta when a couple of their friends had a baby who was born with a cleft palate. The Walkers went searching for a surgeon who could help this family and found him in Guadalajara and took the baby there.
Soon there was another child who needed the same help and they went back to that surgeon in Guadalajara. As word spread around P.V., the Walkers had more children to help than they could transport so they asked the surgeon to come to Vallarta and perform the surgeries here. But the cleft palate program needed money to pay for the travel and accommodation costs of the medical team. Ron, Celia and other local residents then formed the International Friendship Club (IFC) of Puerto Vallarta to fund the program and it been in operation ever since.
The I.F.C Cleft Palate Program runs four times a year. A clinic is held at the IFC Clubhouse the day before surgeries. The children in the program see the doctors and are evaluated for ongoing needs and to determine if they need surgery the following day.
Normally around 30 children are seen on clinic day and a dozen or so patients will be scheduled for surgery the next day. The IFC is very fortunate to be working with the CMQ Hospitals here in P.V. They have been most generous in their support of this program, providing operating rooms and beds for the children as well as many other services.
All of the doctors and nurses who travel to P.V. from Guadalajara donate their valuable time to support this worthwhile program. Our surgeons are Doctor Ezequiel Fuentes Lopez and Dr. Rodolfo Becerra Castaneda, and their special nurses are Enfermero Emma Gonzalez Serna, chief of nursing at Sanatorio Versalles, Enf. Maria del los Angeles Alvarado of the Instituto Jaliscence de Cirugia Reconstructiva, and anaesthesiologist Dr. Emigdio de la Cruz Llontop Pisil, also of the Instituto Jaliscence de Cirugia Reconstructiva. The doctors bring all their surgical instruments with them, and the IFC buys the surgical supplies that are needed.
IFC also buys the airline tickets for the medical team and provides them with donated housing for their stay. Various restaurants in Puerto Vallarta support the program by donating dinners or offering our medical personnel and volunteers reduced prices. For example, Daiquiri Dick’s has been donating clinic-night dinners to our group for years, and we appreciate that very much. Other Puerto Vallarta restaurants that have been generous in their support are: Ocho Tostados, Bravos Restaurant, Masala La Cruz, PV Cupcakes, Prime 159, Sea Monkey, Ginger, Fajita Republic and Eddie’s Place. This, as you can see, is a tremendous community support program.
In order to support the cleft palate program the IFC started its Home Tours in 1988. Thirty years later, the profits from the Home Tours not only support the cleft palate program but also about 25 other charitable programs in the city.
The tours take people condos and villas that are architecturally interesting. Some have stunning views of the shore and the ocean and many have wonderful art and decorating. The owners of these homes donate access to their homes knowing that by helping IFC they are helping kids have a better life.
This season, the tours start on Tuesday 29th November. They run every Tuesday and Wednesday throughout the winter. Comfortable, air-conditioned buses leave the Sea Monkey Restaurant (at the foot of Aquiles Serdan on the beach) at 10:30am on those days, last about three hours and cost $600 pesos.
Please visit ifctoursforvallarta.com to learn more about our Home Tours and ifcvallarta.com for news about the club›s activities.