Miller Children’s ENT Physician, Care Team Travel to Guatemala; Treat Children with No Access to Health Care • Long Beach Post

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Young ear, nose and throat patients celebrate their successful treatment at Moore Pediatric Surgery Center in Guatemala City, where Mending Kids International and The Shalom Foundation set up several physicians and nurses from Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach and other affiliations to treat children from low-income families.


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Recently, with the Help of Mending Kids International and The Shalom Foundation, physicians and nurses from Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach traveled to Guatemala City, Guatemala, to treat more than 40 patients for ear, nose and throat (ENT) problems.

In all of Guatemala City, there are only four otolaryngologists (ENT doctors), making it extremely difficult for those without means to be seen by these specialists. For low-income families and those with limited transportation this means that small, treatable medical issues can spiral into devastating or even life-threatening illnesses.

“These are patients that are living in extreme poverty and absolutely need the care that was provided by our team,” says Ayal Willner, M.D.,pediatric otolaryngologist, Miller Children’s. “One of the kids and his family traveled five hours by bus and then walked another two hours on foot to get screened. We owed it to all of these patients to do as much as we could in the little time we had there.”

During their stay in Guatemala City, the care team lead by Dr. Willner set up shop at Moore Pediatric Surgery Center where they screened patients for the most severe cases and performed surgery on 46 patients in two days. The surgeries performed by the ENT care team ranged from tonsillectomies to help children breathe better, to tracheotomy tube removals, which some of these children were told they would need for life.

In order to make a mission trip such as this one successful the team had to think ahead and gather the resources needed to care for these patients. Having only basic operating rooms and equipment in Guatemala City the care team brought with them complex ear trays, sinus surgery trays, scopes, 40 tonsillectomy wands, two ArthroCare® power units and many other essential items totaling more than $115,000.

“The teamwork on this trip was phenomenal,” says Dr. Willner. “Our team in Guatemala made sure that we had everything set up to treat the maximum amount of patients by creating partnerships with local supply companies and running all of the operating rooms like clockwork. Thanks to the tremendous group effort and support from Mending Kids International and The Shalom Foundation we were able to give these children a better quality of life.”

In addition to Dr. Willner the surgery team from Miller Children’s included anesthesiologist, Uyen Tran, M.D.; operating room nurses, Gwendolyn Nagao, RN; Ophelia San Luis, RN; Debbie Villareal, RN; scrub technician, Carol Chavez, RN; and recovery room nurses, Val Palmarez, RN and Betty Brown, RN. The team also worked with a group of outside surgeons and physicians that included reconstructive surgeon, McCoy Moretz, M.D., F.A.C.E of Beverly Hills; and anesthesiologist, Siyavash Fooladian, M.D., Saddleback Memorial.

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Val Palmero, RN, recovery room, Miller Children’s; McCoy Moretz, M.D., F.A.C.E of Beverly Hills; and Ayal Willner, M.D., pediatric otolaryngologist, Miller Children’s, spend some time with local children and families from Guatemala City, Guatemala who have arrived at Moore Pediatric Surgery Center for their treatment screenings.

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