Newton Stewart born oral and Maxillofacial surgeon surgeon David Laraway recently returned from India after going there to perform charity cleft palate operations.
The trip was organised by the Northern Cleft palate Foundation, who benefitted from a charity events locally to support David’s work.
David said: “Culture shock is a much overused phrase. But my arrival in Nagpur, Central India, was so much more than that.
“I had travelled with the Northern Cleft Foundation, a charity formed 14 years ago to travel to India and provide surgery for children with cleft palate who could not access treatment themselves. Some 30,000 children a year are born in India with a cleft, and access to surgery is limited. Estimates say that up to 30% of children, if left untreated, will die by their fifth birthday due to malnutrition and other related complications. Northern Cleft has treated over 1000 children to date, and I was there as a training surgeon.
“Arrival at the hospital was unforgettable. The peeling paint, the stained sheets in the crowded wards, the lack of what we would consider basic facilities. I had no idea how we could work there. But with us we brought surgeons, anaesthetists, theatre nurses, ward nurses, paediatricians, all our kit, even anaesthetic machines, which our base hospital in India simply didn’t have. And we also brought hope and enthusiasm and bags full of toys and clothes and love for the work and the children.
“We would operate in rooms with two theatre tables at once. The operating lights didn’t always work. There were streams of children arriving each day for assessment. All were desperately thin, literally dying for our help. We operated on children as small as 4kg. All day every day we would work. 12 hours a day for the duration of the trip. No-one complains.
“The stories were heart breaking. Children brought 400 kilometres for surgery by bus. Children we found with awful malformations which we couldn’t help- one child had his brain herniating into the back of his mouth as his skull was split down the middle, a very rare and devastating anomoly. A child who, having lost her dad ten years ago and been brought up by her mum, was brought to us by her sister. Her sister told us that her mum had borrowed money to help bring up the children as times were hard. Having not kept up with the repayments she was murdered 10 days before the cleft camp, burned to death. Her sister was now her parent, and had brought her, placed her trust in us to help her baby sister, now an orphan.
“Each day we heard these tales, each night we went to bed ready for the next days surgeries.
“We worked for nine days. Our team worked five theatres and completed almost 120 cases. Even though we all gave our time freely, and would return to the UK and go straight back to our work, I never heard a complaint.
“Out of that hospital came a stream of new smiles, new voices, and new hope for the future for these most impoverished of children.
“These trips cost more than time though and each member of the team has to raise funds to pay for the equipment and travel- and I have the people of Galloway to thank for raising the money I needed to go with the foundation to carry out this most important work.
“In particular I would like to thank Northern Cleft Foundation, Mr and Mrs A McLaughlin for opening their gardens for the charity, Newton Stewart Bridge Club, the many individual donations we recieved and most of all my Mum and Dad, Chris and Helen Laraway for their fund raising, organising, and endless support to me throughout my career.”