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West Suffolk Hospital doctors' mission to bring a smile to children's faces




Clinicians from the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) have supported the charity Operation Smile by travelling abroad to care for children with cleft lip and palate.

Paediatrician Dr Arun Saraswatula recently returned from Morocco, where he worked with the charity.

He was joined by WSFT theatre nurse Lindsay Anderson on the 11-day mission, when they helped to treat 217 patients and carried out 273 procedures during five days of surgery. The rest of the time involved preparation, aftercare, teaching and training local clinicians and support workers.

Dr Clive Duke with a young patient before their surgery in Ghana in 2017
Dr Clive Duke with a young patient before their surgery in Ghana in 2017

Arun, 49, from Cambridge, said: “Cleft lip and palate surgery is something achievable in the developing world, it’s safe, and most children are discharged 24 hours after surgery. The mission was awesome, good fun, and I made lots of new friends”.

Cleft lip and palate is the third most common birth defect in the world. In the UK the condition is quickly and easily treated, however in 75 per cent of cases worldwide it is left untreated.

One in 10 children affected and untreated will die before their first birthday, and for those who survive, cleft conditions can cause other health problems, and can also be stigmatised by society, to the extent of being ostracised.

Arun became interested in the charity after attending a lecture by WSFT anaesthetist Dr Clive Duke, who has taken part in 17 missions since becoming involved with the charity in 2010.

Clive, of Bury St Edmunds, said: “We provide free, safe surgery performed to global, gold standards of healthcare, with safe staffing levels, good quality equipment, pre-op and post-op care and recovery. Each operation costs as little as £150, lasts about 45 minutes, and literally transforms the lives of our patients.”

He recently gave a presentation at the Bannatyne Health Club and Spa in Bury, where £1,600 was raised for the charity.

Dr Duke, Lindsay Anderson and Dr Saraswatula volunteering in Ghana in 2017 for Operation Smile
Dr Duke, Lindsay Anderson and Dr Saraswatula volunteering in Ghana in 2017 for Operation Smile

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