Cleft mission during the COVID-19 pandemic

Hello everyone,

It’s Dax. I am a surgeon fellow of the NCF from the Philippines. I will be sharing with you what transpired during the Cleft Week 2021.

Let me start by thanking NCF Taiwan for providing me with the means to be able to help, including brand new surgical instruments, surgical supplies, medical fees and my transportation fees for participating this mission. It really wasn't easy to travel to Ozamiz during this time. But it would have been impossible if not for the support of NCF Taiwan and NCFPI.

"The mission would have been impossible without the support of NCF Taiwan."Dr. Dax said.

Last January, I decided to push through with the cleft week this March because I thought that the travel restrictions were starting to ease up. However, in the weeks leading to the cleft week, Covid infections surged in big cities in the Philippines which led to very stringent travel restrictions. There were no direct flights from Davao to Zamia. I had to make a stopover to Manila just to reach Ozamiz. When I reached my stopover in Manila, the place where I was staying was put on lockdown. All the establishments were closed. The street was also blocked so we had to roll our luggages to the next block. Finally we arrived in Ozamiz the next day to start the mission after we were swabbed and tested negative. The ones that were supposed to be operated on that day were deferred because some developed cough in the wards. 

Dr. Dax (the 3rd from the right) joined the functional event of the NCF during his training in Taiwan.

The mission was challenging as well since there were other anesthesiologists who backed out the last minute. We've had power outages. More than half of the patients got deferred due to cough/colds/fever in the past 2 weeks. The weather was constantly changing (scorching hot during the day, cold and rainy at night) which may have contributed to the new onset symptoms too. Overall I think we were able to maximize the trip, being able to do a total of 30 cleft surgeries-- 18 cheiloplasties, 8 palatoplaties, 2 fistula repairs, 1 alveolar bone grafting, 1 palatal lengthening with bilateral buccinator myomucosal flaps. There were 78 patients. We were only able to cater to 30 of them because others were deferred. 30 patients were the most numbers that we can squeeze in 6 operation days. To be efficient with the surgeries, after I do the more crucial parts of the surgery, I have my fellow in training finish it. By doing so, I can start on the next patient in the next room. 

After the cleft week we had our swab again and thankfully we were negative and flew back to Davao with another layover in Manila. It was a very tiring and exhilarating experience. I think even after a few days back I am still recovering from it. Hopefully, when I join the next mission, the pandemic would be over. Or at least the restrictions and travel would not be so difficult. However, at the end of the day, although I am tired, I am grateful that I was blessed with the health, the skill, and the energy to do the mission for our less fortunate cleft kids. I would be glad to do it again.

Stay safe everyone,

Dr. Dax from the Philippines

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