IHC was featured in The Anguilla Herald yesterday! Read the brief article to learn about our life-saving work for the children of the Eastern Caribbean.
Redefining Difficult Realities for Families: Program Manager Ashley Basmajian shares her personal travel story about GuatemalaAugust 16, 2010
For most of us, it is difficult to understand how a parent feels when unable to help a sick child because medical resources aren’t available. Sadly, I work with families facing this reality every day. Most recently, I was reminded of this heart-wrenching situation while I was working as team coordinator and translator on an eye surgery mission to Guatemala. Fortunately, most of the parents I meet in this situation, like the family I describe below, are able to have a happy ending: their children receiving needed care. Still, this is not the norm for so many others throughout the world.
I had the pleasure of getting to know Erma and her four-year-old daughter, Ada, while working in the rural Mayan region of Baja Verapaz. Ada was clearly in pain from a large lump above her eye that she’d suffered from since birth. Though shy, she had summoned the courage to ask Erma for help. It was hard to believe this demure and soft spoken little girl had voiced such a demand to her mother.
“A mother never wants to say no when her child is hurting,” said Erma in Spanish although the Maya language, Q’eqchi’ is her native tongue.
“But here, we do not have eye doctors for children,” she said flatly, since she knew it was the truth, and I knew it was the truth. Although our Richmond-based team had driven up in a private van from the capital city of Guatemala in the span of three hours a few days before, it might as well have been across the ocean to this woman whose life centered around raising her family and working in the land. So, like many other parents I have met in her situation, she felt she had to accept that her child would remain in pain because there was simply no possible way that they could afford to take the public bus south to Guatemala City, let alone pay to see a doctor! This is why she couldn’t believe her fortune when the family heard about International Hospital for Children’s visiting eye surgery team through a radio announcement. She immediately followed the instructions on the radio, checked in with our regional partner; the Lion’s Club of Salamá, and was scheduled to see us during the mission clinic.
IHC team leader and pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Carothers of Virginia Eye Institute evaluated Ada and diagnosed the lump as a growing cyst. The team operated and removed the growth, giving Ada a chance for a better quality of life.
“I’m so relieved,” said Erma tranquilly as she looked over her sleeping daughter. “Ada won’t be in pain anymore.”
Unfortunately, Erma’s story is not unique, and not every child has a voice. But thanks to your continued support, more parents in developing countries are able to help their children receive the care they so desperately need . . . the care their children are asking for. It is gratifying for me to see that, together, we can redefine the realities parents are forced to accept.
Ashley Ring Basmajian, Program Manager
P.S. – I captured a small slice of my time with Erma and Ada on video. Please take a moment to watch this short clip to hear from them firsthand. You may notice Erma’s gorgeous “huipil” or beautiful woven blouse. This is clothing characteristic of the Maya of Guatemala. To me, it serves as a rich and complex illustration of the people who live and work there. I love spending time among such earnest, honest and gracious people.
A Life-Changing Journey: A Board member shares his story of traveling with an IHC surgical mission teamAugust 5, 2010
John Kemper’s experience of a lifetime began when a friend invited him to attend a benefit for IHC. “My expectation was to go out for an enjoyable evening, and that would be the extent of my involvement. What I discovered about the cause behind the party was nothing short of awe inspiring,” he recalls.
Impressed by IHC’s high impact effort to help critically ill children, John agreed to serve on IHC’s Board of Directors. Now, he works to expand awareness of IHC’s mission and raise funds so more surgical teams can travel in the coming months.
John’s first step was to pledge the support of his company, KLMK Group, to fully sponsor a general surgery team. IHC volunteer pediatric surgeon Dr. David Lanning from VCU Medical Center and his team traveled to St. Vincent and the Grenadines last winter and performed life-saving and life-changing procedures on children. John traveled with the team so he could experience the work firsthand.
“I thought I understood what IHC did better than most, yet I was still amazed at the tireless dedication of the team. They worked countless hours each day and spent nights discussing the day’s cases. One day, the team worked from 7 a.m. until 1 a.m. the following day and thought nothing of it because of their concern for the children.”
Meeting so many children and their families allowed John to experience their heartfelt gratitude.
“The children and their families were understandably nervous when they first arrived, but Dr. Lanning reassured them as he conducted evaluations and determined treatment plans. Although I learned a lot about the various medical procedures performed, most rewarding was seeing children and families smile after successful surgeries. They knew their lives had just been changed.”
Because of what he witnessed, John is now using every opportunity to share IHC’s mission with others. “IHC saves and changes the lives of children. Most people can’t grasp how real that concept is, but it is that simple.”
Last week we heard from Jamie, whose life was changed forever when she received surgery with IHC volunteer neurosurgeon Gary Tye at VCU Medical Center. This week, let’s meet Dr. Tye and discover his passion for healing children!
Dr. Tye has generously donated his time and expertise for more than eight years. He most recently led surgical trips to the Eastern Caribbean and has volunteered on trips to Guatemala in the past. Between these trips he treats patients brought to Richmond for neurosurgery.
Why did you start volunteering with IHC?
IHC’s medical director, Dr. John Ward, invited me to join him on an IHC neurosurgery mission trip in 2002 and I realized I loved donating my time to help children. I’ve been volunteering for IHC ever since.
Why did you choose a career in neurosurgery?
I originally wanted to be an orthopedist when I went to medical school but rotated through neurosurgery and loved it.
What has been your most memorable experience volunteering with IHC?
My most memorable and rewarding moment took place during my latest mission trip to St. Vincent. A 12-year-old boy, Yanick, had fallen out of a mango tree and had been confined to a bed for more than six weeks, unable to sit up. Paralysis like this cannot be cured, but I was able to improve the quality of his life through a surgical procedure. Now, he is able to sit up and use a wheelchair. The first thing he did was ask to go out in the sunlight.
What is a typical mission trip like?
A typical mission trip is a whirlwind of a week. It’s usually a long day of traveling on Saturday and the team tries to rest before the clinic the following day. On Sunday, we start early at the clinic to see children who come from islands all over the region and determine who needs surgical care. The team spends most of the week operating and takes one day at the end of the week to get ready for the trip back to Richmond.
IHC has an incredibly dedicated staff and group of volunteers. IHC’s supporters should know they truly make a difference and the more money they can donate, the more teams can travel to help children. The mission teams donate their time and skills, but IHC needs funds to coordinate the trips and to bring children who need complex surgeries to the U.S.
What is the need for critical care in IHC’s partner countries?
There is a tremendous need for medical equipment and funds for children who need critical surgical care. On my last trip to St. Vincent, the only ultrasound machine in the hospital broke, and Dr. Ty-Asha Plummer, IHC’s Eastern Caribbean Medical Director, piled our team into her car and drove us across town to find a working machine. Using the machine, we evaluated and diagnosed a child with hydrocephalus, a life-threatening condition which caused her head to be swollen with excess spinal fluid. She needed urgent surgery.
When you aren’t working or volunteering, what do you enjoy?
When I’m not working I hang out with my kids and we enjoy camping, fishing and sports together. I’m also in a band called The Scrubbs.
Talented physicians and nurses like Dr. Tye volunteer hundreds of hours every year to help children through International Hospital for Children. Learn more at www.healachild.org
Surgery was successful and Jamie recovered while wearing a stabilizing neck brace. Jamie continued to be her outgoing self while recovering and made friends with other IHC families receiving care in Richmond.
In early July, Dr. Tye said Jamie’s neck was stable, and she and Vanessa traveled home to Belize.
Occupation Rising Junior at Virginia Tech
Place of Birth Rockville, MD
How did you first get involved with IHC? How did you hear about IHC? I first learned about IHC through my sister, who works at another non-profit in downtown Richmond, when she suggested that I take a look at some of the success stories on the IHC blog. After looking at the website, I became very interested in getting involved and began to research internship opportunities.
What was your first impression of IHC? How did you imagine your day to day work activities to go? My first impression of IHC was that all the people were incredibly passionate about the work that they are doing – from the employees to the volunteers. I thought that I would fit in well, seeing as I had just returned from a study abroad trip in the Dominican Republic where I witnessed first-hand the types of people that IHC was helping with their work. I knew that the day-to-day activities would encompass more than sitting at a desk, but I did not become aware of just how dynamic the work was until I experienced it.
What do you hope to learn while interning at IHC? I hope to learn the ins and outs of the non-profit while also gaining insight into the intricacies of healthcare in developing countries. Though I deal primarily with the patients in Richmond through the We Bring program, I want to learn more about the other programs at IHC – especially We Capacity-Build. As a Biology major, I am interested in a potential career in the healthcare field so interning at IHC is a great way to explore many of the different options available.
What are your feelings about your internship at IHC? Apprehensive? Prepared? More so than any other feeling, I am excited to see what my internship at IHC will bring. There is a little bit of apprehension not knowing what to expect on any given day of work, but that is the beauty of what I will be doing.
What do you expect will be your greatest challenge in interning at IHC? My greatest challenge, I think, will be educating myself on the various conditions that IHC patients come to Richmond with. I want to become familiar with not only the patients themselves, but also with the surgeries and procedures that they are having while in town. This way I can be knowledgeable when I am speaking with the families or the doctors about appointments or a plan of action.
In what areas do you expect to excel at IHC? Traditionally I tend to be a pretty meticulous worker, so I think that that will come in handy throughout my internship at IHC. Because a lot of the subject matter we’re dealing with is sensitive, one needs to be careful and thorough when completing a task and I think that I can do just that.
What made you chose the IHC internship as opposed to other groups? Though I applied for other internships, the one at IHC appealed the most to me because I thought it would give me a great overview of both the healthcare and the non-profit industries. There is a good balance between logistical work done in the office and patient interaction in the field and that’s what made this internship so attractive to me.
Age: 21 years old
Place of Birth: Richmond, Virginia
How did you first get involved with IHC? How did you hear about IHC?
The first time I heard about IHC I was actually in the hospital for outpatient surgery. While I was waiting to be discharged, one of the nurses on staff suggested I contact IHC after discovering that I was a Nursing and Spanish major. Long after, I researched IHC on their website and was touched by their mission. I inquired about volunteering over the summer and was informed that internships are also available, so I naturally jumped at the opportunity.
What was your first impression of IHC? How did you imagine your day to day work activities to go?
I was extremely impressed with IHC from the start. Not only was I impressed by their goals and values, but since I have started interning here I have found that they are very organized and efficient. With such a lean staff, they do an exceptional job providing clear objectives for the interns as well as providing excellent support for the families through the We Bring program. The IHC staff truly work as a team.
What do you hope to learn while interning at IHC?
While interning at IHC, I hope to spend time with the families and learn more about the medical care and the network which IHC works through to provide care for the children. I also hope to learn some cultural practices and beliefs of the families related to health care and medicine.
What are your feelings about your internship at IHC? Apprehensive? Prepared?
A slight degree of anxiety comes with any new job or internship, but I am truly excited to work with IHC and the families they bring to Richmond for care. IHC is the perfect fit for my studies in Nursing and Spanish.
What do you expect will be your greatest challenge in interning at IHC?
The only challenge I could anticipate is difficulty with a language barrier. Although I have studied Spanish for years, it is not my native language, and languages vary from country to country. Thus, different accents and even different vocabulary can present a slight barrier to communication.
In what areas do you expect to excel at IHC?
I absolutely love working with children. I have always related well to children, and am very interested in learning about other cultures. I believe my greatest strength will be working with the children, and I also hope to organize successful food drives.
What made you chose the IHC internship as opposed to other groups?
IHC is the perfect fit for me. My passions for health care, multicultural experiences, Spanish, and working with children are all combined into one position. Although I am only an intern, it feels great to work with an organization that truly changes peoples’ lives and provides care for those in great need.
Three-year-old Aiden was born with an obstruction between his kidney and bladder. The obstruction was causing major kidney issues including the threat of dangerous infection. He and his mother traveled to Richmond, Virginia in 2008 so Aiden could receive corrective surgery through IHC.
For the second year in a row, Aiden’s mother brought him to the IHC clinic held in their home country of Belize. He was evaluated by IHC volunteer nurse practitioner Valre Welch who said, “Aiden is doing well! He is growing and thriving.”