By Josh Grossberg
There were too many young patients, too far away. So instead of bringing them to the doctors who could help them, the doctors decided to make a house call.
That house call meant a team of plastic surgeons from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) traveled 7,500 miles to Jordan, where they operated on dozens of children with physical deformities too complicated to be treated by doctors at the King Hussein Medical Center in Amman. And the team paid for all of it out of their own pockets.
More than 80 complex cases were reviewed the first clinic day. In all, the team of surgeons operated on 44 kids in four days, including a 10-hour facial bipartition procedure.
Diagnoses included hemangiomas, vascular malformations, hand reconstruction, craniofacial reconstruction and numerous cases of ambiguous genitalia, among other abnormalities. The team stayed an extra few days for postop checkups.
Joining organizer Jeffrey Hammoudeh, director of the Jaw Deformities Center at CHLA were Mark Urata, MD, DDS, Audrey Skirball-Kenis Chair and chief of the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC; Andre Panossian, MD, member of the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Keck School and director of the Facial Paralysis Center at CHLA; Andy Chang, MD, assistant professor of urology; Khaled Mutabagani, MD, a urologist from Saudi Arabia; plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon, MD, oculoplastic & reconstructive surgeon Kami Parsa, MD.
The trip was planned in conjunction with the Children of War Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Hammoudeh and his wife, Amel Najjar.
Helping people across the globe is something Hammoudeh’s colleagues embraced. “They left their families, their work, their operating schedules,” he said. “There’s no financial compensation. They even have to pay their own hotel or plane ticket.”
The foundation’s focus isn’t just on the Middle East, but on children anywhere whom they can help. “In our world, ‘cosmetic surgery’ has a special meaning,” explained Urata. “Having a facial deformity can be emotionally and socially devastating for kids who simply want to fit in. That’s our job: to help them have a normal childhood.”
Although doctors in Jordan are now treating the children, Los Angeles physicians will keep tabs on them. And while they recover, Hammoudeh is already planning his next trip. “We’re looking to visit Armenia in 2014,” he said. “There are so many places we can go. There are so many children, so many cases.”