By Esther Jane Paul
Thirty years ago on November 23, 1983, the seed of the idea for Children’s Lifeline was planted when Nancy Reagan brought two South Korean Children on Air Force One to New York for life saving open heart surgery.
Salah Hassanein (who was president of Todd AO and Warner Brothers Theatres) and the late Joe Sinay gave birth to a non-profit program wherein doctors and hospitals donate their time and services for children in third world countries whose lives could and would be saved by having heart surgery. That exceptional program was and is Children’s Lifeline.
Although the majority of the surgeries performed are heart surgeries, Lifeline has expanded its focus to include other disciplines, including Cranio-Maxillofacial, Neonatal, Neurosurgery and Rehabilitation. Other diseases treated in these children include Malaria, Pneumonia, Parasites, Malnutrition, River Blindness, Anemia, Asthma, Bronchitis, Diarrhea and Influenza.
In the last thirty years, Lifeline has treated 180,000 children in 49 countries.
A great number of the doctors, nurses, assistants and mission team members who participate in the Children’s Lifeline program become attached to the children they have treated and close relationships with them are built. They continue to follow and visit the children for years.
Every ten days to two weeks, medical missions are sent around the world – wherever there is a need. Most recent missions include Dr. Paul Grossfeld from Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego travelling to Cambodia where he performed multiple pediatric cardiac surgeries and Dr. Rikki Green from UCSD Cardiovascular Center leading a key mission to India where pediatric surgeries were done and, for the first time, defibrillators and pacemakers were implanted in the children. In addition, the local surgical staff was trained by this team to perform these types of procedures.
The sheer magnitude of the number of children who are treated in a given time frame is remarkable. For example last year, Dr. Robert Hamilton from Lighthouse Medical Missions in Los Angeles and Dr. Kevin White from Pacific Oceans Pediatrics were in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and treated over 1,000 children.
Countries where Lifeline’s missions have touched the lives of children include Armenia, Cambodia, China,
Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Kenya, Laos, Mexico, Myanmar, Nepal, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Peru, Tibet, Ukraine, Zambia.
Although the doctors and hospitals donate their time and services, there is an ongoing need to provide funds for travel and lodging, equipment, medicines and recovery. Without these necessary funds, children’s lives are lost!
For further information: please visit www.childrens-lifeline.org.