This January, a team of pediatric and plastic surgery specialists including Mission: Restore Founder, Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh successfully separated 11-month old conjoined twins, Ballanie and Bellanie. The 21-hour-long surgery was the first of its kind at the Maria Farero Children’s Hospital, part of Westchester Medical Center, in Valhalla, NY. It consisted of multiple hand-offs from one surgical specialist team to the next– a particularly challenging aspect of the surgery, as most complex procedures only require the assistance of one subspecialty team.
Ballanie and Bellanie, from the Dominican Republic, share much in common with another set of twins that Mission: Restore is familiar with. Blessing and Favour, now two years old, were born in Nairobi, Kenya. Both sets of twins were originally linked at the base of the spine and have since been successfully separated through a rare and intricate procedure. Blessing and Favour’s procedure also represents the first surgery of this type performed in Sub-Saharan Africa, taking place at the University of Nairobi Kenyatta National Hospital. Their procedure was performed in 23-hours by a team of 60 surgeons this past December.
This past year, Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh and his team at Westchester Medical Center participated in periodic telemedicine consultation calls with Dr. JP Ogalo, and his colleagues at the University of Nairobi Kenyatta National Hospital. Together, the two surgical teams, consisting of students and surgeon specialists, discussed a variety complex reconstructive surgery cases. It just so happens that both hospitals would end up receiving similar cases that required the same rare procedure performed.
University of Nairobi Kenyatta National Hospital (UNKNH) acts as a leader in the plastics and reconstructive surgery space in East Africa, and is a key partner in Mission: Restore’s surgeon network. Two bright, young surgeons who have received surgical education grants from Mission: Restore currently take part in UNKNH’s plastic and reconstructive surgery Mmed program. The hospital also hosted Mission: Restore’s first annual East Africa Regional Training this past June, 2016, bringing together 41 surgeons from nine different countries for reconstructive surgical trainings.
From the variety of specialty surgeons needed to successfully perform these unique and innovative procedures, to the telemedicine consultations held between medical partners in NY, USA and Nairobi, Kenya, the message remains clear: we will only grow stronger, smarter and more strategic when OPERATING TOGETHER.
By: Michelle Zavila, Mission: Restore Fellow