Category Archives: Mexico

Reflections from My First Trip – Mexico 2019

Sharalee Walton, RN ~ CSI Volunteer

My trip to Hermosillo, Mexico with CSI was actually the first medical mission trip I had the pleasure of going on.  It had been a desire of mine for several years, but the right opportunity had not presented itself until recently. Like many medical professionals I went into my field because I wanted to help people in need.  Growing up, my favorite toy was my Fisher Price medical play kit. As a result, my dolls and Cabbage Patch Kids were in the best of health. Some of them even had check ups daily. 

Blowing bubbles to pass the time.

I have an interest in working with children with special health care needs, especially in the area of ear nose and throat surgery and oral surgery.  So this trip seemed like the perfect fit.

With St. Andrews Children’s Clinic founder, Coca Romero

As excited as I was to go on my first trip, I also had some anxiety. I had never practiced nursing outside of the U.S. and my high school Spanish was rust, to say the least.  When we landed in Hermosillo we were greeted like royalty. There were parents and children, volunteers from CIMA, and St. Andrews Clinic. There was a festive reception in the hospital lobby, complete with balloons, cupcakes and Star Wars storm troopers. One five year old girl, a former patient, sang Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World. There was not a dry eye in the room!   

Welcome ceremony hosted by Voluntariados CIMA

During this trip I had the privilege of serving in the recovery room. I witnessed parents and grandparents see their child for the first time after the surgery – tears of happiness,  expressions of joy, beaming with pride in seeing the lip or palate defect fixed. These experiences and connections with our patients and families are something I will never forget. 

My colleagues and I assisted 55 kiddos after surgery. I had the time of my life, and I can’t wait to go again.

See more photos from Mexico here.

Lube-Tech Day – Stories of Transformation

The strong support that CSI receives from Lube-Tech and Bame Foundation has allowed us to be here in Hermosillo, Mexico and help young and older children continue with their progression to living a normal life.  Thank you so much to all the employees for your support! Thank you, Lube-Tech. Here are just a few of the stories from the Lube-Tech day of life-changing surgeries:


Axel and his grandma ready for surgery

15-year old Axel lives with his grandparents in Ciudad Obregon, more than 3 hours by bus from Hermosillo. His parents have been out of the picture for as long as he can remember. They are very poor and for years were unable to find doctors to repair Axel’s cleft lip and palate, let alone pay for it if they did. Axel did not go to school for years because of his condition. 

Axel’s grandmother never gave up hope, and when she learned years ago that a CSI team comes every October, she begged and borrowed the money for the bus fare to get them three hours north to Hermosillo. On their first trip, our team repaired Axel’s cleft lip, then in 2017 his palate. We told Axel to return for evaluation, and this year, we were so pleased to see Axel and his grandmother again. 

He needed a bone graft surgery, where a small piece of bone from the hip is used to fill in a gap in the upper jaw. (Some children with cleft lip or palate also have a cleft in the gum ridge of the upper jaw that holds the teeth). With this surgery complete, it will be easier for Axel to eat, his nose and teeth will be better stabilized, and his speech and appearance improved. We were so excited to hear that Axel is now going to school! He is taking a special computer course, and says that he wants to work with computers as an adult. 


Sonora is a very large Mexican state, and although everyone tries their best, it’s impossible to let every parent know that a free cleft lip and palate mission is coming to Hermosillo in October. Which is how we received a frantic phone call Monday from the mother of three-month-old Ian from their home five hours away in the tiny border town of Aguaprieta. They missed screening day, but could she please bring Ian for surgery to repair his cleft lip. When we said yes, they jumped in the car, arrived at the hospital at 1:00am. Ian’s mother was so excited she couldn’t sleep all night!

Ian and mom drove all night to get surgery.

Ian’s surgery went very well, and he woke up VERY hungry! When she saw her baby boy for the first time after surgery, Ian’s mother’s exhausted look changed to tearful excitement and love. That’s the best part: seeing the faces of the parents as they embrace their children after a successful surgery! 


Jose and his sister Cecilia came all the way from Nogales, Sonora. Jose is now 16, but he first connected to the St. Andrews clinic as a small child with a cleft lip and palate. St. Andrews brought him to Hermosillo to CIMA Hospital for the CSI mission, and over the years he has had several surgeries. 

Jose and Cecilia

Jose’s mother tragically passed away when he was 12 years old. His much older sister Cecilia took over care of Jose, as well as their younger brother. “It was so chaotic at first,” she says. “The boys were 12 and 10. I didn’t know how to be both mom and sister, let alone a grieving daughter.” Cecilia continued to bring Jose every year to Hermosillo to be evaluated by CSI. 

This year Cecilia brought Jose for rhinoplasty surgery so that Jose will be able to breathe much easier. The surgery will also help his speech and ability to be understood. Which is important, because he now plans to follow in his sister’s footsteps and pursue additional training and ultimately a degree in electronics engineering. Cecilia and Jose are so glad to be here, and say “Thank you Lube-Tech for making this surgery possible!”

Screening Day – Mexico 2019

The 15th annual CSI mission to Hermosillo, Mexico got off to a rollicking start at 7 a.m. Saturday. We screened 108 children who came from all over the state of Sonora to see our surgeons. 

We are especially excited to be here for our Quincinera! We are celebrating the 15th anniversary of a unique collaboration between CSI, CIMA Hospital in Hermosillo, and St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, based in Nogales, Arizona. Working hand in hand with our wonderful partners, we have been able to provide top-notch surgical and ongoing care for more than 700 children!

For me, one of the best parts about our unique partnership with CIMA and St. Andrew’s is that we are able to follow children as they grow and need subsequent surgeries, speech therapy and more. I love to see kids come back who I met five or six years ago when they were tiny, knowing that now they are growing and thriving because they have been able to receive life-changing care from CSI.

Marco is a perfect example. I met Marco on my first CSI trip to Mexico in 2013 when he received his first surgery for a cleft palate. He was an active happy toddler, and now in 2019, he came back to us a handsome and outgoing eight-year old. He will undergo speech surgery on Tuesday, which will allow him to be more easily understood. I’m so grateful for this collaborative relationship with CIMA and St. Andrews which allows us to provide this extended care for Marco and hundreds more. 

Melanie McCall ~ CSI Volunteer

Click here to see more photos from Mexico.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Suddenly, three days of life-changing surgeries and care have concluded, and we are finished. We are already planning for the next trip, exploring ways to collaborate to help more children and families. But before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s take a moment to celebrate this year’s work. We are deeply grateful for our partners at St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic and Hospital CIMA. 

We continue to be in awe of the passion, dedication and skill of our CSI team. Volunteers are the foundation of work – their skill, passion, flexibility and dedication are what makes this work possible.  We are so proud and grateful – Thank you team!

Kathy Clinch, MD
Jim Ducharme, CRNA
Markus Faeldonea, RN
Michael Fritz, MD
Jon Grischkan, MD
Karen Hick, MD
Cheryl Holihan, MD
Katie Houle, RN
Jamie Huffman, RN
Monisha Husom, NP
Corrina Kettner, CRNA
Charlee Kimmes, RN
Lora Koppel, RN
Paul Melchert, MD
Kaitlin Nelson – Medical Records
Megan Nolan, MD
Paul Peterson, DDS
Brianne Roby, MD
Maria Rubin, RN
Dan Sampson, DDS, MD
Megan Sparks – Logistics
Ana Vazquez Rojas, RN


Vicente’s Story – Mexico 2018

Today we finished our work. In total, 62 surgeries were completed. We are so proud to have a strong partnership with Hospital CIMA and St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, providing free surgeries to some of the areas most needy families. Our colleagues here care deeply for the children and families of Sonora State and most especially those who have very limited access basic health care. We have a shared goal of providing basic and life-changing medical and surgical care to these children, and, together we work passionately to make it happen.

Each child and family has shown us courage, love, determination and hope. Their stories are powerful and moving, and sometimes there’s one that stands out. While on holiday, Ms. Diana, the office manager at St. Andrew’s Clinic, met 6-month-old Vicente’s mother. Vicente’s mother wasn’t exactly on holiday — she was on the street, begging for money. Ms. Diana noticed her carrying a sign and wanted to know more. As she approached, Diana realized the woman was begging for money to fund her son’s cleft lip surgery.  

Ms. Diana knew her organization could help this family, so she talked with the mom and wrote the phone number of St. Andrew’s on her sign, telling her she must call and come to the clinic for evaluation. Mom took a chance and called. The next month Vicente was prescreened for the upcoming fall CSI trip.  

When our team arrived in Hermosillo, Vicente and his mother were waiting. He had his surgery Monday and went home today, with a beautiful repair and new hope! Vincente’s mom told us how grateful she was. She said she didn’t really think Ms. Diana was for real when they met, but she was wrong. Ms. Diana, St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, Hospital CIMA and CSI are very real  and very serious about helping families in need. 

It takes a village, and we are certainly proud to be a part of this one!

View more photos here!

Second Surgical Day – Mexico 2018

Today was a long but good day that included 21 life-changing surgeries. The morning started with CSI surgeons reviewing surgical plans with parents, CIMA Hospital and CSI nurses preparing kids for surgery, and CSI anesthesiologists bringing the children to the operating room.

Little Angel, Kael and Santiago were our first cases — all getting cleft lip repairs. Their mothers were so nervous. When children go to surgery their parents have to wait. We wait, we worry, and we wait. It’s excruciating. We assured these young mothers that their children are in incredibly loving and skilled hands. “These are the same doctors and nurses who care for my babies. I have complete confidence in them to care for yours,” I reassured them. While the waiting was hard, before they knew it they were reunited with their children — a little sleepy but overall great. The transformation of the cleft lip after repair is incredible, and moms are so happy and grateful.


Some more complex cases were on our schedule today as well, including a four-hour rhinoplasty surgery led by CSI volunteer surgeon Dr. Michael Fritz. After all patients are out of the post-anesthesia care, the team of surgeons, pediatricians and nurses do their final rounds for the day. The last team members departed the hospital at 8 p.m., and 21 patients were resting comfortably in the capable hands of our nursing colleagues at Hospital CIMA. 

Nos vemos mañana dulces niños! (See you tomorrow, sweet children!)

— Megan Sparks, CSI Executive Director

click to view more photos!


First Surgery Day Completed – Mexico 2018

On our first day of surgery, the team completed 20 life-changing surgeries for patients age 2 months to 17 years. The surgeries that were required, the children’s overall health and their family situations may vary, but some things remain constant — like the love, the worry and the hope for a successful outcome.


Today we had a special visit from a former CSI patient, Daniella, who “graduated” from the cleft program after her palate repair in 2016. Daniella arrived with a big smile and a gift for longtime nurse anesthetist volunteer Jim Ducharme. Jim and Daniella hugged and exchanged handmade gifts. Daniella has decided to become a doctor when she grows up, in part because of the wonderful care she received from CSI volunteers, and she wanted to say thank you to Jim, CSI, CIMA Hermosillo and St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic. She and her parents are grateful that she can move forward and pursue her dreams, The sky’s the limit, Daniella! 

Eight-year-old Estrella and her family heard about CSI and traveled one hour through unseasonably wet and cold weather by motorcycle with hopes that they could get help for her cleft palate. Estrella and her family were so tired and scared today. The family lives in a tent in rural Sonora state, and we learned that they have had their fair share of health problems and family tragedy. The CSI cleft team evaluated her and was able to add her to our already busy schedule. We can offer a surgery that we hope will bring joy and happiness, replacing at least some of their fear and anxiety. They are brave to risk so much and to entrust us with Estrella’s care. We won’t let them them down.

For more photos click here.


Celebrations – Partnerships – Joy, Mexico 2018

What an amazing screening day. Our partners at St. Andrews and CIMA Hospital have been working hard all year to prepare for today. They pre-screened hundreds of children to determine which were candidates for surgeries with our team. And today the CSI team, in collaboration with our CIMA Hospital colleagues, screened 110 children for surgery this week. Many were told to return in the future for re-evaluation and checkup; that is one of the unique and special things about this site. For this week, we plan to do 62 surgeries on 57 children in three surgery days.  

One of those children is 21-month-old Yoel. Yoel will have a palate repair on Saturday; his needs are more complex as he has a tracheostomy and a feeding tube. His mother is beyond grateful that he will be having surgery this week. She was told when Yoel was born that he’d likely not live past 4 months, and here he is at 21 months. He will continue to surprise everyone after his palate repair and more progress.

Midway through screening the rest of the CSI team arrived. We were welcomed to the hospital with a wonderful celebration – complete with a band, balloons, songs and many hugs! We are thrilled to be a part of this great community and cannot wait to get to work.

Making a lasting impact – Hermosillo 2017

Time to Go Home!

After our third and final day of surgery, it’s time to do final rounds, give care instructions to parents, exchange hugs and say farewell to Hermosillo for another year.

Most patients spend just one night in the hospital, and after being examined by their surgeon and pediatrician, they are sent home with detailed care instructions and necessary medications. They are also given gifts of food, diapers and toys from the Hospital CIMA volunteers.

Most importantly, a detailed plan is made for follow-up and possible subsequent surgeries. This is what makes this trip so unique: When CSI returns to Hermosillo annually, we can follow up on past patients and perform further surgeries as necessary. It’s THIS aspect that can really make the difference for a child to grow up with a normal appearance, normal speech and full self-esteem.

Dr. Jon Grischkan, our surgical team lead this year, brought up Ana Karen – introduced to you in our first blog post. “This young woman, now 19, has had her complete cleft care treatment: cleft lip repair, cleft palate repair, speech surgery, alveolar bone graft and rhinoplasty. She’s beautiful, amazing and a great representation of the work that is possible when strong organizations come together! Kudos to Children’s Surgery International, the CIMA Hospital volunteers and St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic.”

CSI depends on support from private donors in order to continue offering this continuum of care. Thank you so much for your support! With your gifts, along with the moral support you offer CSI team members, YOU are changing children’s lives, one smile at a time.

Click to make a donation today.

Click for photos from the Hermosillo surgical trip.

A story of persistence, hope and celebration – Hermosillo 2017

Day Two in Hermosillo brought us 20 more beautiful children ready for surgery: Babies and toddlers needing cleft lip repair, several children in need of cleft palate repair, and four older kids who will undergo surgery to replace missing bone in their palate, using bone taken from the hip.

One of the many special patients is Blanca. Since birth, she has already undergone several surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and more. This year Blanca, now 14, is ready for rhinoplasty, a surgery that will correct the defects to her nose and sinuses. We all know about the dramatic change in appearance that comes from surgery to repair a cleft lip, but the additional surgeries are often critical to the child’s development, speech and self-esteem. A rhinoplasty is often the final surgery a cleft patient will need.

In many areas of the world resources may be severely limited for more complex surgical procedures, making this type of ongoing, and often more complicated, care impossible. This is where CSI steps in, partnering with St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic and Hospital CIMA Hermosillo, providing free surgical and medical care to children in great need.

In December, Blanca will have her Quinceañera, the Hispanic tradition of celebrating a young girl’s coming of age on her 15th birthday. It’s an incredibly special time for a girl, her family and friends. There is a special church service, receptions and parties, all to honor and celebrate this important turning point in a girl’s life.

Dr. Michael Fritz performed the successful rhinoplasty for Blanca, and the day after surgery she and her mother were all smiles. She is now at another turning point: the likely completion of all necessary surgeries, ready to get on with her life. We are so glad to have been a part of this process for this sweet girl. Feliz Quinceañera, Blanca!

View photos from the CSI surgical trip here.