Nine doctors from the Netherlands run the Bridge the Gap foundation which organizes free cleft lip and palate surgeries for children in Laos every year.
The corrective surgeries of an estimated 150 patients will be performed at Vientiane’s Mahasot hospital from January 12 to January 27. Bridge the Gap doctors have been visiting Laos since 2009 and this year they would focus on reconstructive surgeries for eligible candidates who have Noma. This is a fatal infection of the mouth caused by bacteria that affects the tissue and bones of the face causing disfigurement.
Local volunteers who run the Bridge the Gap in Laos FB page and assist the medical team in spreading the word about their trips have started collecting donations to help patients (who are mostly young kids) and their families from all across the country travel to Vientiane and return after the surgeries.
The team needs about LAK 90 million or USD 5,000 to help arrange the travel and stay of patients and they have collected approximately LAK 33 million so far. Individuals interested in donating could do so via a QR code or could also make a bank transfer from a local or a foreign bank account by connecting with the team on their Facebook page.
In case someone is unable to help monetarily but still wants to contribute, the team is also looking for fluent English and Lao speakers, ideally with a medical background, who would be willing to attend surgery procedures and translate the Dutch doctors’ explanations for the Lao medical team.
Lao speakers can contact the Bridge the Gap in Laos Facebook page to volunteer during the event. Individuals could also help in distributing food to the patients, playing with the children, and assisting with registrations.
Considering that the Bridge the Gap medical team was unable to visit last year owing to Covid-19 restrictions, some more patients are likely to sign up for surgeries this time around after being recommended by their provincial hospitals.
The much-needed donations will go towards paying for patients’ transportation costs (one patient and one caretaker), daily food and food allowances, hygiene products, and logistics. The team also has some games and toys donated from previous years to entertain the kids.
Many restaurants in Vientiane are pitching in as well by providing lunches to the eight Dutch doctors during their trip.
The visiting doctors are taking two weeks of their time to travel to Laos and the Mahosot medical team, doctors and nurses will be assisting the Dutch doctors during surgery, post operation care, and also take care of registration and communication with the provincial hospitals.