Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery Outreach
Humanitarian Trip to Peru
This September Dr. Myriam Loyo Li and her husband, Dr. Ryan Li, traveled to Cameroon in West Africa to help teach surgery to doctors in Africa and to treat patients with cleft lip and other head and neck diseases. Below, Dr. Loyo Li writes about their experience in Cameroon.
Cameroon is a beautiful country along the coastline of West Africa. An estimated 48% of the population lives below the poverty line and the infrastructure of the country is largely inadequate to support this. Our trip started when we landed in the main port of Douala and then continued as we traveled by land for 6 hours on a road filled with pot holes and detours to the Mbingo Baptist Hospital. The land in Cameroon is green and fertile and covered by waterfalls during the rainy season. Bananas, cocoa, tea and coffee are common crops. Most of the economy is local farming with very simple tools and one can often see children selling these crops along the highway.
The whole country of Cameroon has only 6 medical schools (compared to 141 medical schools in the US). Surgical training is difficult to find in Africa and sub-specialized training in extremely rare. The hospital where we operated, Mbing Baptist Hospital, is known for its excellence in care in great part because American missionaries have been going there for over 10 years and have recently started a training program for local surgeons. During our trip we taught African surgeons in training through the Pan African Academy of Christian Surgeon (PAACS).
Families often traveled for days to get to the hospital and coming up with the money for medical care cam be extremely challenging. After surgery, family members often sleep at the patient's bedside in cots or on the floor to take care of their loved ones because of insufficient nursing staff. One of the mothers of a child with cleft lip cried emotionally after seeing the repaired lip of her 2 month old son. She had been told by her own mother she should "throw the child away" and that the presence of the child would poison her other children, and now she felt her child would have a better life. Patients would tell us of the difficulties they endure to get to the hospital and how deeply appreciative they are for the care provided.
Dangerous road conditions and riding motorcycles without helmets caused severe and complicated facial fractures in the area. Often a whole family will ride on one motorcycle. By helping repair the broken eye socket of an 18 year old, we helped restore vision to a compressed eye and improved facial contour. He had been traveling on his way to work when a cow on the road detoured him. We taught local surgeons how to best repair the bones to allow them to heal from these complicated fractures.
It was our honor to be part of this mission work. We are thankful for Dr. Wayne Koch, the surgeon who invited us to participate on this mission, and to the team of surgeons in Cameroon that received us, particularly Drs. Acha Tikum and Chege Macharia.
We leave you with one of our favorite Helen Keller quotes: "Alone we can do so little;together we can do so much".
Dr. Myriam Loyo Li &Dr. Ryan Li