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Archive for May, 2012


Tomorrow I take our son, adopted from China in 2008, to LA for another surgery to repair his bilateral cleft palate. They are going to elongate his palate to assist in speech development. Since many adoptive families face similar issues, I thought I’d post this interview with the surgeon. It is from a magazine put out by the Shriners.

William p. Magee, M.d., d.d.s., is the director of the cleft lip and palate program at Shriners Hospitals for Children® — Los Angeles. He leads the program with plastic surgeons Susan Kay, M.D., and John Lorant, M.D. Dr. Magee is also an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s division of plastic and reconstructive surgery and is part of one of the largest cleft teams in the country at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. These affiliations have allowed him to expand the cleft lip and palate program at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Los Angeles. The son of the founders of Operation Smile, Dr. Magee has performed numerous surgeries for children around the world. He recently took a moment to discuss the cleft lip and palate program at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Los Angeles.

What sort of specialists are involved in the cleft lip and palate program at the hospital? At Shriners Hospitals for Children— Los Angeles, children receive a comprehensive team approach at their initial evaluation. Our craniofacial team includes many different specialists, including pediatricians, speech therapists, audiologists, psychologists, dentists and orthodontists.

Tell us a little about how Operation Smile influenced your career path. The work of my parents clearly had a heavy influence on me. It all started when my parents went to the Philippines in 1982 to treat children with cleft lip deformities. When they arrived, they found 200 children waiting. The trip was monumental for my family. Operation Smile was born as a result of it and it changed our lives. In a period of thirty years, I traveled to different regions of the world and played both small and large roles in the organization. I’ve coordinated missions, designed programs and represented Operation Smile as a surgeon abroad.

How have you seen the cleft lip and palate program evolve at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Los Angeles?
The surgical volume and severity of deformities has increased. Our partnerships have grown both regionally and internationally. For example, we are participating in educational endeavors with different parts of Mexico, both in Tijuana
as well as Sonora, to improve the education of orthodontists, pediatricians and plastic surgeons.

Describe how you use telemedicine in your practice. Shriners Hospitals for Children — Los Angeles has been doing this successfully for five years and can be role models for this type of endeavor. We have helped families save on the cost of travel and post-operative care tremendously. Telemedicine is an essential part of our practice and has allowed us to expand reach and improve the efficiency of the care we deliver here.

Do you work closely with other cleft programs? The collaboration of our team with the Craniofacial and Cleft Center at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the Keck School of Medicine at USC brings committed volunteers and excellent faculty to participate in the work we do here.

What sets Shriners Hospitals for Children — Los Angeles apart from other facilities? Our program model is unique because we are able to provide a Center of Excellence for people and countries that otherwise would not have had access to that level of care. I’m so proud to be a part of it.

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I live in blissful ignorance at times. I feel much like when I used to hike up mountains back in New England. Your eyes would be focused on what you thought was a peak, drawing ever closer. When you got there, finally, you realized it was just a slight plateau and the mountain continued up. I would exclaim, “there’s more?!”Every time I think we are near the end of the journey, I see there is another slope I didn’t realize existed.

It is my fault. I’m sure Amie told me. The positive side is I’m not discouraged by the large number of steps still to be taken. I just take them as they come.

We had two big steps in the last week. We are so much closer, the air is cooling. There are patches of snow on the ground and the wind is picking up. I can almost touch the top.

We were waiting on passports for the kids. Last week we learned they had a batch coming in. Perhaps that batch would include our kids’ passports. Friday couldn’t come quick enough. Thankfully, their passports were in the batch that had arrived.

When we chose this agency, we’d already picked the country. None of the agencies represented themselves as Christian adoption agencies. After the fact we slowly discovered that some of the people were Christians. We started to see Scripture references. Well, the e-mail we got about the passports was filled with “Praise the Lord”s. They were having a “Praise the Lord Party” in the office. In God’s kind providence we chose a Christian adoption agency.

We learned, as you may have noticed last time, that the person setting up the embassy appointments was going to leave in May. The end of April receipt of the passports meant they could request the embassy appointments. But would they be submitted in time to be processed before the position changed hands and there was the inevitable delay due to the learning curve?

Today we learned we have appointments for the kids. Yeah, I thought the appointments were for us. I thought we could plan the trip. Almost, another ridge to climb first. The agency worker will drop off all the paperwork June 22nd and the kids will be interviewed June 25th.

How does that work exactly?

Embassy worker: “So, are you happy to be going to America?”

Micah: some response in French(?) along the lines of what is America?

Asher: “juice?”

The estimated travel dates are mid-July as a result of the appointment dates. It will be quick as visas are applied for, received and all that other stuff. More hills on the way to the top.

“Big ol’ jet airliner…”

But what I suspected happened- it is while we are on vacation. We had just booked our airfare, including a ticket for Micah (Asher is still young enough to fly free, barely). But all we have to cancel is her ticket to NY. Lord willing, they will be on the return flight to AZ with us. Amie and her friend, Wendy, will mostly take their 2nd “Get the Kid” transworld trip together. This time they will be together all the way since Wendy lives in NY. Last time they met, barely, in Detroit on their way to China together. This is better than having to cut a vacation short to prepare for  the trip like last time. You’d think we were always on vacation based on this pattern. The kids will spend a few days getting to know a whole bunch of cousins (it will feel like the orphanage) before we all head home together.

We are tired, but we have a few more hills to climb.

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