Tucuman, Argentina

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It takes many people to provide medical care to people who need the assistance of doctors like Dr. Rhodes. Hospitals and surgical centers donate supplies, individuals donate money, trained personnel donate their time to travel great distances at their personal expense.

Each year, many doctors travel to countries which are far from their homes and busy medical practices to offer assistance to people who tremendously need care from physicians and medical crews who have advanced training and experience.

Dr. Rhodes is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon with more than twelve years of experience in his field.

His mission has been to bring needed care to children by teaching the medical personnel while he is correcting birth defects. Dr. Rhodes has traveled to Chili, Honduras and Tucuman, Argentina in the past few years in offering this service.

Twelve years ago, Ailan was born in the campo (country) outside of Tucuman, a
town in northwestern Argentina. Tucuman was called TucMa by the Incas and meant “mother earth”.

Ailan’s mother left him and the rest of the family, refusing to live with and
raise a “monster” after Ailan was born. He had a complete cleft palate (absence
of the roof of the mouth) and a bilateral labio leporino (hare or cleft lip).
His appearance was truly frightening and upsetting even to trained medical personnel.

Ailan was born in a country with minimal medical facilities which were spread even more thinly by socialized medicine. Worse still, no one in the area knew how to surgically correct the defect. Born to a poor family, a trip of many hundreds of miles to Buenos Aires for care was unthinkable.

People withdrew from Ailan and he withdrew from people. He stayed hidden most of the time and refused to attend school when he was old enough. In January, 1996, Ailan’s father died and he was left to wander the streets as a beggar unable to make even the intelligible sounds of speech because of his defect. Weeks later, he was found and taken in by a maternal aunt. Shortly thereafter, the local health authorities announced that a team of North American doctors were coming to Tucuman bringing a cirujano plastico (Plastic Surgeon) with them.

Later, in March, Ailan found himself in a makeshift clinic with dozens of other children with similar defects. The exams lasted into the steaming tropical night. Several days later, the last case of a fourteen hour operating schedule, Ailan’s defect was repaired. The following days were spent recovering and staring into the mirror at someone he had never before seen. People treated him differently. He walked the streets without being stared at. He could swallow without liquid coming from his nostrils, he was learning how to speak, and the other children wanted to play with him.

A variation of Ailan’s story was repeated many times in late March and early April in Tucuman, Argentina and La Paz, Bolivia as a surgical team from Deseret International brought the miracles of modern surgery to the people of these areas. The team included professional volunteers who donated their time, money and talents to helping the children of South America.

Dr. J Robert Rhodes, a plastic surgeon from St. George, Utah, provided the surgical expertise for the children.

Local individuals in the countries donated time, facilities and skill. Through everyone’s help, nearly 40 operations were completed in the two week volunteer period. Spanish LDS missionaries were assigned for translation duties and local hospitals donated supplies and operating room facilities. Personnel from the hospitals freely devoted their time. Deseret International’s special approach provided for a local surgeon to attend all of the procedures. Dr. Miguel Corbella had the privilege of this intensi