By Stacy Engebretson, NBC26
Appleton, WI – December 3, 2014 – When the non-profit organization Women for World Health asked Dr. David Janssen to leave the comfort of his Fox Valley Plastic Surgery practice in Appleton for a remote village in Peru, his answer was simple.
“No, I’ve got commitments and then I just couldn’t sleep at night,” said Dr. Janssen.
So last August, he packed his winter coat and traveled slippery roads into the Andes Mountains.
“We stay in a house that really doesn’t have heat and sleeping bags, and we get to a facility to take care of people and there’s a line.”
Dozens of poor children and adults with cleft lips, palates and severe burns hoped the team of 20 U.S. doctors and nurses could improve their conditions.
“The hard one was Nahlita who is a 32-year-old lady. Nahlita was burned when she was two, and her chin was stuck to her chest and her lower lip was stuck to her chin.”
Dr. Janssen took skin from her abdomen to release the scar.
“We could actually lift her up and she was so afraid. She had never lifted her head in her adult life.”
The group was challenged by language barriers and worked long hours.
“It’s difficult to work when you’re at 11,000 feet because you get dehydrated. You get sore. You know, we worked until 10:00 at night.”
The medical team treated 77 patients in about a week.
“Everybody was just so wonderful and dedicated.”
Despite his reluctance in the beginning, Dr. Janssen is happy he made the trip and put his life at home on hold to help others 3,700 miles away.
“I think that the kids in general all ended up with better function. Their hands would open. They could grasp stuff better after working on their hands. The scars were released and, in general, we did a lot of really good work.”
The doctors and nurses all brought all their own equipment and paid their own way.
Dr. Janssen wants to do more mission work and eventually be a leader on a trip.
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