via Khmer NZ News Media
Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Eddie Harrison
SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia — Doctors and volunteers from the non-governmental organization Operation Smile embarked aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy, June 17, for six days, to perform surgeries ranging from cleft lip and cleft palate repair to addressing facial and burn scars in support of Pacific Partnership 2010.
Pacific Partnership is a joint effort between host nations, partner nations, NGOs, and other U.S. government agencies that come together each year to foster the relationships in which they provide medical, dental, veterinary, and engineering civic action programs as well as subject matter expert exchanges with local medical professionals.
Before the Cambodian leg of the Pacific Partnership 2010 mission began, Operation Smile participants pre-screened more than 130 children and adults with cleft lips, cleft palates, and other facial deformities, to select patients for reconstructive surgeries.
“We have brought a full medical team of plastic surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses,” said Scott Snyder, Operation Smile program coordinator for the mission. “We will be performing around 20 to 25 surgeries a day and we are hoping to see about 80 patients during the next four days.”
The Operation Smile team aboard Mercy brings together people of many countries and backgrounds. For this effort, the team is made up of 47 members from Cambodia, Ireland, Italy, United Kingdom, and United States, working as a whole to complete these surgeries and help the Cambodian patients in need.
“It’s great for us to be working aboard [Mercy],” said Snyder. “We usually work in government hospitals in developing countries and sometimes the facilities aren’t that great. We come aboard with the Navy, and it’s like working in one of the best hospitals in the U.S.” Operation Smile has conducted missions with the Navy since 2006 and joined Pacific Partnership by participating in the 2008 mission.
While most of its efforts concentrate on the delivery of surgical care, Operation Smile engages in subject matter expert exchanges – even within its own organization.
“I really wanted to go on this trip,” said Brenda O’Brien, an Operation Smile volunteer from Ireland, when she discovered Operation Smile would be participating in Pacific Partnership 2010. “I am looking forward to seeing the techniques from the different surgeons from all the different countries.”
According to O’ Brien, the part that means the most to her is getting the patients aboard, giving them a clean recovery room, and them knowing that they are getting the best treatment they can possibly get.
Operation Smile has provided free surgeries to children around the world since 1982. With a presence in over 50 countries, Operation Smile has helped children whose parents cannot afford to give them the surgeries they need. Today more than 145,000 children have been helped by the medical volunteers at Operation Smile.
The fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors, Pacific Partnership 2010 is aimed at strengthening regional partnerships among U.S. government organizations, host nations, partner nations and international humanitarian and relief organizations.