Volunteers Provide Pediatric Surgical Services in Armenia

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Hffern (center) and Dr. Armen Chalian (right) at Yerevan's Arabkir Children’s Hospital

ORANGE COUNTY—The Plasticos Foundation, based in Orange County, sponsored a 17-member delegation of doctors and nurses from across the United States to provide voluntary anesthesia and surgical services for pediatric reconstructive operations in Yerevan, Armenia.

More than 120 children were screened for life-changing surgeries for cleft lip and palate, post burn contracture release, nose and ear abnormalities, and congenitally fused webbed hands and feet. Nearly fifty cases were able to be performed. The pediatric patients came from all over, including remote villages, to the capital city of Yerevan where the procedures were performed at the Arabkir Children’s Hospital. These patients came from families in need who may otherwise have never had the opportunity for these operations.

One of the patients who received reconstructive surgery

US Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern visited the volunteer medical team of physicians and nurses.

The team had brought along more than 600 pounds of medical supplies from the United States all obtained or purchased through private donations. Of the seventeen member medical team sponsored by Plasticos Foundation www.plasticosfoundation.org, only three were of Armenian descent including Anesthesiologist Dr. Armen Chalian from the Montebello Armenian community.

In addition to providing much needed care to those less fortunate, the medical mission included teaching and supervision of young physicians in training in an effort to affect change in the healthcare delivery system in Armenia. Dr. Chalian commented “this mission was different because there was substantial teaching and professional interaction. In some ways, their doctors are the true heroes because they provide excellent care without the technology and medications we have here in the United States.” The mission took over six months of preparation to settle on the best site for the surgeries to take place, and to have Armenian physician contacts find those most deserving including children from orphanages in Gyumri and remote villages. Repairing a congenital cleft lip, reconstruction of burn contractures, or correction of developmental anomalies can make the difference in whether a child will be find a home or not. Babies with severe clefts were also not able to eat properly prior to their surgeries.

Dr. Armen Chalian

Overall, despite the long hours including a couple of twelve hour days, Dr. Chalian said he never felt tired because he was energized by the children and the talented team of doctors from all over the United States including New York and Yale University in Connecticut. The most memorable patient was 15 month old Tatevik whose hand and fingers were burned accidentally and transformed into a contracted ball of flesh. After enduring a lengthy surgery which involved a full thickness skin graft and wire splinting of all five digits, she has regained an open hand with the expected return of reasonable function before she is old enough to fully realize what she had lost. Seeing the desperation in the eyes and faces of these patients turn to hope and relief was the greatest gift the delegation agreed that they would take away from this experience.

The volunteer physicians and nurses of different nationalities all liked the experience and appreciated Armenian hospitality. On the few days off, the team visited Tsitzernakabert, the Genocide Museum, Khor Virap, and Lake Sevan. “Since returning home, many people have commended me on helping others but really I think the children and the experience helped me more “, Dr. Chalian said. Many physicians have have gone on medical missions to Armenia and “it was just my turn now.” Dr. Chalian hopes to continue these efforts not just to treat those in need, but also to train and work with healthcare workers and officials to affect lasting change in the healthcare delivery system as well.

Dr. Chalian is adult and pediatric anesthesiologist who practices all types of anesthesia including cervical and lumbar spine pain management in Orange County at St. Joseph Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Orange County.

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3 Comments

  1. Vanessa Kachadurian said:

    Thank you so much for your time and energy in Armenia. 8 years ago these children were shamelessly hidden or put into orphanages where they were adopted to many nice non-Armenians worldwide. This is a shame they are removed from their culture, language and people because of old ignorance. These children are the future of Armenia and have rights that must be respected. This team has some great nurses and others supporting it, including many supply companies. Dr. Chalian is a great guy and tireless humanitarian.

  2. mahmouzian said:

    thank you doctors.please do the same in stepanagerd .it is just wonderfull ro read thoses kind of news .thank again

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