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Dr. Crane Surgery Camp in India

Dr. Crane Surgery Camp in India

In the United States when a baby is born with a cleft palate, the deformity is immediately corrected; this is not necessarily true in a country like India, however, where resources are scarce and medical care is expensive. Ten years ago, Dr. Rebecca Crane, a plastic surgeon based in Naples, decided to try to rectify this situation. Every year since, Dr. Crane has taken plastic surgery mission trips to India, offering her services to patients who are in need of care, but unable to afford it. By sharing her expertise in cosmetic surgery, Dr. Crane and her medical team have removed the stigma of physical defect from hundreds of people.

This past year, Dr. Crane returned for the fourth time to the city of Bangalore, in southern India. Her work there was funded by donations from various medical and charitable organizations, and she was assisted by a team of surgeons and students from Wake Forest University. In two weeks, Dr. Crane and her medical team were able to complete 488 plastic and reconstructive operations, sometimes performing as many as eighty surgeries a day.

Although Dr. Crane and her team try to treat every patient, it is occasionally an impossible goal: some burns and defects are too severe to be corrected at Dr. Crane’s clinic. The two-week time span also limits the number of procedures Dr. Crane can perform. If a person cannot be seen during Dr. Crane’s two-week visitation, they are invited to return the following year and will have priority over new cases. Patients who have traveled a long distance will also be treated as quickly as possible.

Coping with a physical deformity is always a challenge. This is especially true in India, where marriage is still a central focus of society and prospective husbands are usually not interested in a woman with a cleft palate. Then the woman must live with her parents indefinitely, an arrangement, which might not suit the family. An unmarried woman faces an uncertain fate in India, and Dr. Crane’s work can change a disfigured woman’s chances.

Dr. Crane’s passage to India has been bittersweet. Women come to her clinic with their faces covered to conceal the burns. Three generations of a family’s men, all sharing the same defect, arrive at the surgical camp seeking treatment. Some of the patients are elderly, and this is there first opportunity for a plastic or reconstructive operation. While the cases vary, the reward is the same: gratitude for what Dr. Crane and her team have done.

– Elizabeth Hunter –