Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Group Mends Backs in Dominican Republic

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

St. Louis Group Mends Backs in Dominican Republic

Article excerpt

Visit PediatricOrthopedicProject.wordpress.com to make a donation.

Visit Pediatric Orthopedic Project on Facebook and print out the California Pizza Kitchens flier and/or the flier for Mia Sorella's and Trattoria Marcella. The restaurants will donate 20 percent of the bill on the following dates.

Friday: Bring the California Pizza Kitchens flier to any of the four participating restaurants, which are located in the St. Louis Galleria, West County Mall, Chesterfield and Creve Coeur.

Jan. 27: Bring the "Dine for a Cause" flier to Mia Sorella in Ballwin between 5 and 9 p.m.

Jan. 28: Bring the "Dine for a Cause" flier to Trattoria Marcella in St. Louis between 5 and 9 p.m. Reservations strongly suggested.

When 17-year-old Nehemuel Garcia played soccer, his back hurt. And the sight of him shirtless saddened his mother because she thought she couldn't do anything to help him.

The family in the Dominican Republic could not afford surgery to remedy their son's scoliosis. But because of the Pediatric Orthopedic Project Inc., a nonprofit organization based in St. Louis, a volunteer surgeon operated on Garcia in June of last year.

Now 18, he is not only more confident physically, but socially.

Translated from Spanish, his mom Eunice Lopez Garcia said, "Right now it's like a dream. He's very happy."

Since 2012 the Pediatric Orthopedic Project has operated on 25 impoverished children in Santiago to alleviate their scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. And Dominican surgeons, trained by the organization's volunteers, have operated on 52 more.

This March, 16 volunteers will trek back to the country to perform surgery on more patients.

Dr. Madelyn Stazzone, program director, said it's been exciting to see the country's medical techniques improve as more and more children get help.

"That's unprecedented," she said. "We've been very surprised, honestly."

But things haven't always run so smoothly.

Stazzone, a pediatric radiologist, and her husband, an orthopedic surgeon with Signature Medical Group, first decided to volunteer after a fellow surgeon told them of a Dominican doctor looking to start a mission for children with scoliosis.

Many families cannot afford an operation, and especially for girls, the condition can leave them ostracized from the marriage pool.

The Stazzones and about a dozen other volunteers paid for the first trip out of their own pockets and expected it to be a one- time visit to the public hospital that serves an impoverished population of about 500,000. However, after meeting a boy post- operation who later died of undiagnosed pneumonia, Stazzone said she knew more had to be done.

Flies were present in the operating room. The beds were "archaic," and the rooms were unclean with no air conditioning or fans. Nursing was minimal, so mothers had to take over post- operative care. …

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