Mending Kids’ Hometown Mission Brings Hope

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By Megan Murdock Krischke, contributor 

August 7, 2013 - Pierre, a four-year-old, had a large keloid growth on his ear. Though he was covered by government insurance, officials refused to pay a simple surgery to remove the keloid, insisting the surgery was cosmetic.

“What do you say to your little boy when he comes in from playing to tell you about how he is being teased?” Pierre’s mother expressed to Marchelle L. Sellers, MBA, executive director of Mending Kids International. “He is already growing up in hard circumstances, he doesn’t need anything else working against him.”

Young patient after Mending Kids outpatient surgery.
Young Pierre smiles tentatively after his surgery provided by Mending Kids International as part of their first Hometown Mission. Photo by Isabelle Fox.

Pierre was one of several children who recently benefited from free outpatient surgeries offered by Mending Kids International (MKI) in their inaugural Hometown Mission. For years, MKI has been taking physicians, nurses and other medical professionals on short-term international missions to provide free surgeries for children, as well as bringing international children to the United States for procedures. This was the first time they have offered free surgeries to U.S. children. 

“Having a Hometown Mission felt like we were completing ourselves as Mending Kids International,” remarked Sellers. “We started receiving referrals for local children, so that was the impetus to do a local mission. The government agencies will take care of more complex and critical issues, but there are children like Pierre who have issues that the government doesn’t consider medical concerns. But Pierre is going to start kindergarten in the fall, and what child needs additional teasing?”

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center agreed to partner with MKI to host the event on July 20, 2013.

“Throughout the day there was a palpable spirit of enthusiasm. There was so much energy created by everyone coming together and wanting to be there and wanting to give the kids the best care they could. There was so much celebration, we had to be attentive to keep the noise level down--which is not typical of the pre- or post-op environment,” she commented. 

The Cedars-Sinai staff members were eager to help. MKI was originally hoping to have five physicians, but nine volunteered. They also recruited nurses from the Cedars staff. Ultimately, 50 medical volunteers served on the day of the surgeries, assisting with everything from check in, pre-op and various operating room duties, to post-op care and patient discharge instructions. 

Between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., the team performed 19 procedures. An additional procedure was done when the doctors found something that needed attention during the originally planned procedure. 

“Orthotics, plastics, urological and general surgery were the primary areas we worked,” explained Sellers, “That day we did a microtia reconstruction for an ear deformed at birth, cleft hand surgeries, hypospadias, removed a nevus, removed keloids, released burned contractures and removed two benign tumors. Our outcomes were great and no one got readmitted or had to stay in the hospital.” 

A nurse practitioner with MKI and another volunteer made follow-up calls to patients on the evening of the surgery and the day after, and helped them to schedule their post-op appointments, as well.  

Young patient from Kenya part of Mending Kids International Hometown Mission.
Victor, a young patient from Kenya, received no-cost outpatient surgery thanks to Mending Kids International Hometown Mission and dozens of medical volunteers. Photo by Isabelle Fox.

Half of the children who participated in the inaugural Hometown Mission were from the Los Angeles area, the other half were internationals. MKI plans to host a second Hometown Mission in December and is looking for referrals to children who need but cannot obtain outpatient surgeries. 

“What we saw with the Hometown Mission is that it doesn’t matter where kids are from, what their background is. The nursing staff came together to make sure each child had the quality of care and level of comfort and support that they really needed. They gave up time with their own families to serve these children,” reflected Sellers 

“The Hometown Mission gives nurses and physicians an opportunity to know what it is like to do charitable work. They give 13 hours, and don’t have to travel. One surgeon with a long career said it was the most rewarding day of work he had ever put in,” she said. “Children from impoverished communities are receiving top-notch care from one of the best institutions in L.A. We didn’t just get the job done, we got the job done right.”

If you are interested in participating in a Hometown Mission, have a child to refer to the program or would like to host a similar mission at your hospital, please contact Marchelle Sellers at marchelle@mendingkids.org. Mending Kids will take referrals for kids who live anywhere; once accepted in the program, they will cover travel and lodging expenses for the child and one adult. For more information visit the Mending Kids website.

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