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Sue Burnett - Rotaplast Mission to Guatemala

Morning Star Rotarian Sue Burnett reported on the 2019 Rotaplast mission to Guatemala. Easton Rotary has a long history of supporting Rotaplast including four mission participants including Tony Petrillo, BJ & Kristie Metz, and Jean McGill. Sue explained that going to Guatemala was not really on her list to do. PDG Linda Young asked her to be on the Rotaplast committee and then she decided to go on the September 2019 mission. She was the Historian, photographer and Blog writer.

Using some great photos, Sue told the story. The mission was for 13 days, to Guatemala City and it helped 114 children who had cleft lips and cleft palates. There typically are 15 missions like this each year. Our D7430 sponsors all or part of the $120,000 costs every other year. The Rotarian volunteers pay their own way. Sue is 53 years old, speaks no Spanish, and was one of the youngest team members. The mission required a team of 16 medical staff and 10 non-medical volunteers -- eight from our district. Through a first-come, first-served process on about 200 possible, an amazing 114 surgeries were performed on children who with their parents waited in line at the Hospital overnight and some traveled 16 hours by bus to get there.

Sue described the clinic screening and pre-op work followed by the 3 days of actual surgeries. There were only 3 operating rooms, no air conditioning, and they were short on sterilization equipment. To her surprise, Sue was allowed into the ORs during surgeries to take pictures. She emphasized how nice and happy the staff were the whole time. The Rotaplast program has been around for 27 years and has performed over 20,000 surgeries.

BTW, many cleft palate cases need about 8 surgical procedures in their lifetime. It still is unclear what causes cleft lip and palate. One thought is the lack of folic acid in the diet. Children in Central America are six times more likely to have these problems than children in the U.S. This truly is a life changing surgery and all of the children received a handmade quilt as a remembrance of the time their lives changed. Kids born with these defects are shunned by their whole society. Sue said that near the last days they had a fundraiser and purchased shoes for every patient and for the local staff too.

Planning is under way for a 2021 mission. Already Rotarians have raised $25,000 and another $75,000 plus will be needed to fund this extraordinary program. For more information, contact Co-Chairs Darlene Scott or Susan Burnett of the D7430 Rotaplast Committee.

Many thanks to Felloe Correspondent Bill Palmer for submitting this article (Bill is a Past District Governor and Past President of Easton Rotary).


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