Oral surgeon gets feeling of satisfaction on mission trip

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  • | 4:28 p.m. April 21, 2014
  • Ormond Beach Observer
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The doctors operated on 40 patients in seven days.

The young man with the facial deformity was shy and quiet when he first met the doctor. One side of his face was normal, and the other side shapeless, because the muscles had not developed. He tended to turn “the good side” toward people when he talked to them.

He was set to attend college in the fall in his native Honduras, and he and his mother wanted to see if anything could be done for his face by the doctors who were visiting from America, earlier this year.

One of the doctors was Dr. Sameer Haté, an oral surgeon who owns Cypress Point Oral Surgery and Dental Implant with offices in both Palm Coast and Ormond Beach. He was part of a surgical mission to Honduras with two other oral surgeons and two oral surgery residents from Tufts University in Boston.

Dr. Haté operated on the young man, using a cheek implant that had been donated to the hospital. It was not a precise fit, but he made it work.

“We had to adapt and make do,” he said. “When we were done, the facial symmetry was more in line.”

He said the surgery still stands out in his memory, even though it was “less dramatic” than many of the other surgeries he performed on the mission, because of the effect on the young man.

“He seemed a lot more confident,” Haté said. “I felt a lot of satisfaction.”

The doctors often improvise and use equipment donated from medical centers in the United States when on the mission trip, even though they are at a working hospital. The first thing they do upon arrival is to go through the cabinets and see what equipment they have to work with.

“You have to think on your feet,” Haté said. “It’s not like in the United States where you can ask a scrub nurse for something and get it right away.”

The team worked 10- to 12-hour days, for seven days, and performed 40 surgeries on patients from 8 to 80 years of age at Ruth Paz Hospital for Burns and Surgery in San Pedro Sula. The team operated on head and neck tumors; cleft lips and palates; deformities as a result of gunshot and machete wounds; and reconstructed missing lower jaws, as well as cosmetic procedures.

The team triaged nearly 100 patients before selecting the 40 who underwent surgery, Haté said. The others were placed on a waiting list until another brigade returns in June.

Haté said there are medical teams that visit all over South and Central America, and the trip to San Pedro Sula was started by Dr. Roderick Lewin of New Hampshire, 30 years ago. Now in his 80s, Lewin still manages the trip at least twice a year.

The patients come from surrounding villages and mountains. A local representative lets people know that “la brigade,” as they are known, is coming.

Some patients were wounded in drug cartel wars and civil unrest. Before he left, Haté said his wife did some research and found out the city had been designated the most dangerous city in the world by the World Health Organization.

They were a little concerned, he said, but while there he never felt unsafe. The medical teams all stay at the same hotel and the routines have been worked out.

Haté said the hospital facilities were a “third-world kind of situation,” but were clean.

“It wasn’t bad,” he said.

He said he had previously been on a mission trip to Colombia, where it was “a little more primitive.”

Haté was asked to go on the trip by Dr. Maria Papageorge, who was his program director at Tufts University, where he studied surgery after getting his dental degree from the University of Florida. Also on the team was Dr. Patrick Abbey, of Tampa.

Haté said the trip was an opportunity to get experience in surgical procedures and made him appreciate what people have in the United States. He believes the lessons he learned will help him in is local practice of oral and maxillofacial surgical care.

Cypress Point Oral Surgery offers dental extractions, nonsurgical sleep appliances, bone grafting, pre-prosthetic surgery, facial trauma treatment, oral pathology services, TMD/craniofacial pain treatment, corrective jaw surgery and more.

Visit cypresspointoralsurgery.com or call 445-0555 for the Palm Coast office or 492-6801 for Ormond Beach.


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