Author Archives: Children's Surgery International

Trip reflections from Ellen Reynolds, CRNP

As I sit at the gate waiting to board my last plane home after a week in Ethiopia with CSI, my mind is starting to return to thinking at a less intense and focused pace. The details about people met and goals accomplished are becoming more rich and clear.  This happens to me every time I work on a medical mission trip. In the moment, success is often measured by tasks completed, mistakes averted and “thank yous” received. For me, the bigger picture often takes time to reveal itself.  

When Dr. Jesse Hennum and I gave a talk about cleft lip and palate to the nurses in Bahir Dar this week, we discussed the psychosocial implications to a family of having a child with a significant facial defect. There were a lot of nods, and after the talk one of the nurses continued to voice his experiences with families who had been ostracized by their village for having such a child. For those of us who are parents, the thought of one of our children being shunned by society because of how they look is incredibly painful. We all know the impact of judgment and prejudice, along with the limitations to self concept they can produce in a person’s mind – as well as opportunities often missed in society. 

In our one- or two- day snapshots of the families we worked with, we saw loving, caring and compassionate parents. We saw kids who were curious, charming and engaging with people and the world. We saw Ethiopian doctors who were smart, talented and willing to go the extra mile to help these kids achieve their best selves. This week, CSI was the needed resource that helped put the pieces together to make a happy, successful life possible for these children. A life where, hopefully, the kids will be judged on their personalities, effort, kindness and integrity rather than the shapes of their faces. CSI removes barriers for children in ways that last for years to come, both through individual surgeries and the education of medical staff that can keep them going. Honestly, this is REAL success! 


Education for lasting change in Ethiopia

We are so excited that our CSI surgical teams are back to sharing hands-on education and training with our local partners – this time in Ethiopia! Local ENT surgeon, Dr. Kassaw, said today: “Now I know how to do this for the rest of my life. No one takes this much time to teach us”. After a full day of hands-on training with CSI, Dr. Kassaw completed his first cleft lip surgery start to finish. Think of all the children he will serve in the future thanks to collaboration with CSI volunteers.

Arriving in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

It takes about a day and a half to get from the U.S. to Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Our small volunteer group is made up of surgical mission veterans – all quite familiar with the long flights, immigration lines, long layovers and other challenges of international travel. Something felt a little different this time. One member of our team got held up by a delay in getting a visa granted. Our luggage was thoroughly inspected by customs (a nearly 2-hour wait). Team members were randomly held back at security checkpoints to double check passports and identity. 

So what’s happening? Two years of a pandemic plus an ongoing security situation in Ethiopia. Even though the areas of conflict are far from Bahir Dar and Addis Ababa, we are still experiencing the effects. Thanks to our host team led by Habtamu and Taitu Tour and Travel, we are kept safe and moved across the country as efficiently as possible. 

We had a few hours free Sunday morning for a short tour around the city of Bahir Dar. We visited a market and a hilltop with great views of the city, the immense Lake Tana, and the source of the Blue Nile. We were frequently greeted with children’s smiles, many jubilantly shouting “Farengi! Farengi!” (“Foreigners!”)

The afternoon was spent at the hospital, unpacking and beginning preparations for surgeries starting tomorrow morning. Melesse Gebeyehu, M.D., gave us a tour of the hospital and the surrounding campus, which is evolving into a state-of-the-art medical university. A basic science research building is being completed, and we also saw lecture halls, a library and housing for students. 

Dr. Melesse proudly shared that they now have a full otolaryngology training program. He shared, “the knowledge and training that you at CSI bring to us, will soon be passed on to our students and residents.”

Jesse Hennum, M.D. Pediatrician 

To see more photos, visit our Flickr album.”

Transformations in Mexico

We’re excited to share a few transformations from our team’s work in Hermosillo, Mexico! More children received surgery today as the team bid farewell to those who were ready to go home. Thank you CSI volunteers for the life-changing work you do.

View more photos from the surgical trip to Hermosillo, Mexico on our Flickr site.

Eight children receive surgery on day one

Day one of surgery in Hermosillo, Mexico, complete! Eight children received life-changing surgery today. Thank you CSI volunteers, supporters and our awesome partners at St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, CIMA Hospital Hermosillo and Voluntariado CIMA.

To keep patients, families, partners and volunteers safe, children receiving surgery this week have been tested for COVID-19 and are quarantining with a parent prior to surgery. Thanks to CSI volunteers, each child has received a colorful gift bag with items for play and distraction as they isolate. 

Surgeries in Mexico begin on Sunday

We’re thrilled that our surgical teams are returning to travel. Volunteers travel to Hermosillo, Mexico tomorrow and will begin surgery on Sunday. As always, CSI is grateful for strong partnerships with St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, Voluntariado CIMA, and Hospital CIMA Hermosillo — thank you for making this work possible.

CSI surgical team returns to Mexico this week

This week, CSI returns to travel for in-person collaboration and care with our partners in Hermosillo, Mexico. Naila, Nikol, Santiago, Erick, Angel, Pablo and 18 other children are waiting for life-changing surgery from our surgical team! 


Supporting our partners from afar

Today, CSI volunteers would be departing for our first surgical trip of 2021 — to Liberia. While it’s difficult to see these canceled trips pass, we keep our promise of working to reduce health care disparities. Through donation outreach efforts, a very successful supply sorting session at MATTER and our ability to reach into our own inventory, a large shipment of supplies is currently on its way to Liberia!

We’re proud to provide requested medical and surgical supplies, plus coveted PPE, to our longtime partners at Firestone Duside Hospital. In addition, some of these supplies will be headed to LEAD Monrovia Football Academy. To supplement our community outreach efforts in Liberia, CSI has consulted with the LEAD staff to help them establish a new in-house health clinic. We will provide supplies, professional training and ongoing consultation to help the academy better meet the health care needs of their young student-athletes.

This shipment contains donated new supplies, valued at more than $40,000. Thanks to our medical volunteers and incredible local and international partners, the cost to CSI was only a fraction of the value. We are deeply grateful for the strong partnerships that make this possible.Thank you, Firestone Natural Rubber Company, Murphy Warehouse Company, LEAD and MATTER. Together, we are strengthening communities and making a lasting impact.

A surprise visitor in Liberia

Our team in Liberia had a surprise visitor last week. Othello, 22, says his life was changed forever when CSI volunteer Dr. Eric Moore removed a large tumor on the side of his face and neck during our fall 2013 trip. Othello traveled two days to Firestone Duside Hospital last week to say thank you and to share his plans of attending nursing school. Thank you, Othello, for letting CSI be a part of your magical story.

Watch Othello tell his story during our 2013 Liberia mission:

Reflection from Dr. Janelle Fox

Dr. Janelle Fox

As I journey home, I reflect on my seventh CSI Liberia trip with several of the same colleagues, but also many new friends. This trip successfully deployed many lessons learned over the past 10 missions, including a recruitment flyer using local wording, a comprehensive patient database from seven prior missions and even the debut of music therapy, courtesy of Elyse Vandersteen, mission partner. 

During our trip, 177 children were screened, 110 received surgery, and 5,000 more were dewormed. We learned to appreciate the resources we take for granted, like basic emergency transport, serum electrolytes, CT scanners, IV pumps, the ability to vent sevoflurane out of the OR, and the luxuries of outpatient surgery and clean water.  We were spoiled over the past week by the hospitality at the Firestone Guesthouse and now find ourselves unwilling to return to the world of doing our own laundry and cooking. Today, we leave our Firestone friends and Duside Hospital patients tired, rewarded and excited to be invited to return again next year.  

View more photos on CSI’s Flickr site.