LOS ANGELES—As a humanitarian crisis unfolds in Armenia due to the recent war in Artsakh and the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Akira Ishiyama, Professor, Division of Head and Neck Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Dr. Salpy Akaragian, Director Emeritus, UCLA’s International Nursing Center, of the Armenian International Medical Fund rose to the challenge, risking their safety and health to give the gift of hearing to the children of Armenia and to help a wounded 20-year-old soldier.
During its 20th medical mission (November 26 to 28) to Armenia, the AIM Fund achieved three milestones:
For the first time, children in Armenia received the 600 Series cochlear implants, which are MRI compatible, function at a higher level, and only available in select countries.
Second, the largest number of cochlear implant surgeries were successfully performed during a single mission since the AIM Fund’s formation, changing the lives of 13 children.
Third, the team performed surgery on a 20-year-old soldier injured in combat during the 2020 Artsakh War. The damages to his temporal bone and facial nerve required the combined efforts of four highly specialized surgeons. Dr. Ishiyama (expert otologist), Dr. Armine Gharakeshishyan (ophthalmologist), Dr. Levon Mkitaryan (endocrinologist), and Dr. Armen Hovhannisyan (plastic/reconstructive surgeon) worked together to repair the soldier’s facial nerve and prevent loss of eyesight. The surgery to repair his facial nerve was the first of its kind performed in Armenia. Additionally, a gold eyelid implant was donated by UCLA Health to ensure his eye can close properly. The soldier is on his way to recovery. He can now close his eye, his face will no longer be paralyzed, and he will be able to chew and swallow without difficulties.
During these challenging times, Drs. Ishiyama, Akaragian, Shukuryan, the AIM Fund team, and the surgical team in Armenia have changed the lives of 14 families through their kindness and care. They have given the gift of hearing to 13 children and ensured a return to normal life for one brave soldier. Though the war in Artsakh has been devastating for Armenians, parents were grateful for the CI surgeries. One parent stated that having their child receive the implant was the best news in 2020.
The Armenian International Medical Fund was formed in May of 2003 as a non-profit organization. Its mission is to create and maintain innovative health care programs in Armenia with the intention of making Armenia the Regional Center in the Caucuses. One of its major endeavors is to provide free hearing screenings, hearing aids at minimum cost, perform BAHA and Cochlear implant surgeries, and train future otologists in Armenia.