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Camp Amigo 2017, Tribute to Volunteers and Campers

March 25th, 2017   Tribute to Camp Amigo Volunteers and Campers – By Natalie deLeon; photos by Natalie deLeon and Joe Castanedo   Burton, Texas- Camp Amigo, a project of Austin Smiles – The Austin Plastic Surgery Foundation, is a program that brings together patients in the Craniofacial and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Center at Dell Children’s Medical Center and volunteers with both medical and non-medical backgrounds. Located at Camp for All in Burton, Texas, Camp Amigo is a unique camping experience for one weekend each year that gives young people born with cleft lip/palate the chance to be themselves, make friends, and have a great time with peers. Kids get to be themselves without boundaries, limitations, or judgment. Camp Amigo counselors and campers motivate each other to step outside of their comfort zones, and every year many a camper and counselor alike say, “I can’t wait to come back next year!”     2017 marks the six-year anniversary of Camp Amigo...

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El Salvador 2017, Maritza

February 23, 2017 Maritza – By Kristen Brown; photos by Sarah Carney   Today’s post highlights perhaps the most extraordinary story of our trip – our organization’s 45th – to El Salvador.   Meet Maritza:   Maritza, age 30, and her mother Ana Daisy, came to Hospital Militar on Sunday with all the other candidates and patients to be seen and evaluated for surgery this week.  However, this is not the first time Maritza has come to see doctors from Austin Smiles, and hopefully, it will not be the last. On the evening of April 17, 2014, Maritza came home from her job as a household employee in San Salvador.  She decided to lay down on the bed she shared with her boyfriend, the father of her youngest child, and rest.  Suddenly, and without explanation, her boyfriend – a recently suspended Salvadoran police officer – came into the bedroom, pulled his gun from underneath their bed, and shot her in...

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El Salvador 2017, Third Surgery Day

Third Surgery Day – February 22, 2017 Austin Smiles Volunteers: Going to Extraordinary Lengths for Others  – By Kristen Brown; photos by Sarah Carney An Austin Smiles medical mission team is a mix of veteran-trip goers, first-time volunteers, medical experts, and nonmedical helpers.  Some have never traveled outside of the United States, while some have traveled the world.  Many work most of their days in the operating or recovery rooms back home, while some have never seen a surgery.  Some come knowing Austin Smiles well, while some team members arrive at the airport not yet knowing a soul. In the matter of a day – sometimes even mere hours – the team comes together as a unit, brought together by the common goal of making the mission trip as successful as possible.  The 2017 El Salvador team of 42 medical and nonmedical volunteers is no exception. Today we want to highlight what it takes to be a volunteer with Austin...

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El Salvador 2017, Second Surgery Day

Second Surgery Day – February 21, 2017 Samuel – By Kristen Brown; photos by Sarah Carney San Salvador– On Day 2 of surgery, we want to highlight a baby whose big smile, happy disposition, and incredible transformation touched the hearts of the entire Austin Smiles team: Samuel, age 11 months.  Samuel and his mother, Vilma, traveled seven hours by bus from the Ahuachapán region of El Salvador for Sunday’s candidate screening and evaluation.  They waited for hours to be evaluated by our medical team, and Samuel never seemed to lose his infectious smile. Samuel is the youngest of five children.  Vilma stays home with the young ones while Samuel’s father works as a farmer.  Vilma previously tried to receive charitable surgery for Samuel through a Salvadoran hospital six times, but he was never selected.  The lack of pro bono resources combined with the high need for cleft lip/palate repair surgeries is simply too high. Vilma’s aunt heard an announcement on...

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El Salvador 2017, First Surgery Day

First Surgery Day – February 20, 2017 Elvis & Mirna – By Kristen Brown; photos by Sarah Carney San Salvador– Day 2 of our mission trip began with triage for the 11 patients scheduled for operations.  Dr. Quint Barnes and Nurse Kim Moreno evaluated each patient, took their vitals, and checked to make sure they had neither eaten nor drunk anything past midnight.  Once checked in and photographed by Junior League volunteers Michelle Hagans and Sarah Carney, patients put on green hospital gowns and begin the very long day of waiting for their craniofacial or cleft lip/palate repair surgery. Today we highlight the day’s two youngest patients: Elvis, age one year and five months, and Mirna, age one year and two months.  We remembered their beautiful faces well from the selection process on Sunday and followed them throughout the day of their surgeries. Elvis and his mom traveled from the Santa Ana region of El Salvador, about 1.5 hours by...

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