Diane with a patient
The program to assist handicapped children began in 1986 and several thousand children have been evaluated and assisted. The island of Camiguin seems to have a high incidence of birth defects. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the populace inter-marries closely. Marriage between first cousins is common. It may also be due to poor nutrition of the mothers prior to and during pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy is quite common.
Cleft lip and cleft palate is the most common birth defect by far. These children are often reported to Diane a day or two after birth because the midwives around the island know that she has large droppers which aid in feeding these babies. But if there is only a cleft palate, people are less likely to realize there is a problem and the child might not get diagnosed until he is much older. The surgery for such cases must be done in Cagayan de Oro City, because Camiguin has no pediatric anesthesiologist. So transportation via boat and bus, food for the parent and medicine after discharge from the hospital is provided. The surgery itself is free thanks to the SmileTrain, an international charity.
The majority of these children are unable to breast feed and the parents can seldom afford to buy enough of the expensive infant formula so Family to Family provides some infant formula every month and the mothers are taught how to feed the children with the droppers. Then when the children are old enough, usually at least six months, assistance is provided for the medical work-up prior to surgery. Though the check by the pediatrician at the government hospital is free, the lab work and chest x-ray are not. And many of the parents don’t even have enough money for the carfare to and from the hospital. Sometimes a child will be fine and surgery can proceed immediately. But that is really the exception. Many of the children have some infection or are anemic or have worms. All these problems must be cleared up first. Family to Family covers all of these medical treatments and the hospital bill and the meals for the parents during the hospitalization for the surgery of the child.
Club foot is also a commonly seen problem. And again these cases must be sent to Cagayan de Oro. They go once a week for free serial casting to gradually correct the foot’s position. Transportation and casting materials are provided by Family To Family. Then they need special braces/or braces and shoes until the age of four years. They usually require months or years of follow-up as the club foot has a tendency to come back.
Included in the Assistance to Handicapped Program is assistance to burn cases. This is mainly in order to try to prevent handicaps. In the case of second and third degree burns assistance is provided in the acute phase, because avoiding or controlling infection at the burn site can often prevent the later development of contractures. And assistance is also provided if such contractures requiring surgical correction do develop. These cases often involve years of follow-up.
Various eye problems are given assistance. Congenital cataracts are helped with surgery including inter-ocular lenses. Strabismus cases receive glasses and surgery if needed. And many children have received eye glasses for errors of refraction. Emergency help is provided for eye trauma cases, which often means they have to be rushed to Cagayan de Oro.
Various other orthopedic and digestive tract birth defects have been aided.
Family To Family also provides transportation for children in need of physical therapy. This includes children with delayed physical development, cerebral palsey, and Down’s Syndrome. There is one free government physical therapy center on the island. Children needing special education are provided with transportation to get to one of several public schools on the island who offer SPED classes. This includes children who are blind or deaf, slow learners, autistic, and learning disorders.
Tom and Diane thought they could eventually “clean up" all of these cases, but every year they see newborns or older children who have moved to the island who need help. So they doubt they will run out of work to do.
Photos of Children being Assisted
Contributions should be payable to "Family to Family, Inc." and mailed to:
Family to Family, Inc.
c/o Availa Bank
126 W 6th St.
Carroll IA 51401-2341