Dr. Singh’s & Dr. Shridharani’s Book for Charity: Special Smiles
Why We Wrote the Book
Our motivations in writing this book were to meet the needs of children who are treated in surgical missions. These children need to be able to find role models or other children like themselves during an extremely stressful and fear-producing situation. This book is for these brave children.
Imagine you are a child with a birth defect – you already feel different and “abnormal” due to the stigma attached to these facial differences. You may feel ostracized both inside and outside the family. Now you are thrust into prolonged travel to a surgical mission. You are out of your familiar surroundings. One or both parents may be absent during your trip if a friend or extended family member is bringing you to the camp while the parent(s) stay behind to provide for other children or earn a living to pay for your child to travel. You are homesick and tired. And you may only be 5 years old. Imagine what a lovely child goes through. We felt their anguish and wanted to provide something constructive to help with this challenge. And this book hopefully helps us accomplish that goal.
This book hopefully can be a looking-glass in which such a forlorn child identifies someone that may reflect who he or she is – including a part of the world that they are familiar with – Asia, Latin America, or Africa. They can hopefully identify similar surroundings, similar foods, or similar geography to their own situation.
The child reading the book, or having the book read to him or her, could read the story line only about his or her home country, or only about his or her gender. Or the child could read all the parallel stories that reflect different yet similar journeys for these children. Thus the child and parent might see how health is a universal language—spoken and sought by all.
Now imagine how disenfranchised a local doctor or dentist or nurse might feel – that they are unable to be a part of helping their own countrymen, their own neighbor. The sense that someone from the Western world comes to solve their problems for them is palpable and can be condescending. We included characters from the children’s native countries who reflect the dedicated, talented, and compassionate health care practitioners that are working in underfunded clinics and providing world-class care to these kids. This book may help the child see the hero at home, and validates the essential role of the local health-care team.
Mission work originating from America or Europe often gets more media attention and is foremost in many minds. It is terrific that there is much charity originating from the rich world. But, underappreciated are the team members from developing nations who also perform charity work. Children and host hospitals need to know that the faces they see reflect the surgical fraternity from all over the world. We have enjoyed scrubbing in to cases with surgeons from all over the world who participate in charity missions to other regions. This book is to applaud and encourage volunteerism from all corners of the world, whether it is labeled Rich or Poor, Developed or Developing, Western or Eastern, First World or Third World.
Finally, we plastic surgeons sometimes are the glory hounds of these missions. Yet it is a team effort—there are self-less pediatricians, critical care nurses, anesthesiologists, dentists, and other professions who play no less a role in the care and rehabilitation of these children. We wanted to give them a “shout-out” and pull them off the side-lines. We wanted to appreciate and highlight the role that the members of the multi-disciplinary team have in these missions. There are the skilled medical professionals who manage the OR supplies, nurses who recover the patient, pediatricians who round on, see, and are there for the patients while the surgeons disappear back into the OR for the next set of surgeries. It takes a village and this book seeks to acknowledge that.
It is a to-and-fro for those of us who participate in philanthropic missions. We provide a service. We also essay to share our knowledge, technique, and skills with local doctors. In return, we find the satisfaction of helping a fellow soul. In return, we learn from local skills and traditions and bring that back to our homes and to our hospitals. Some organizations are in a tiff with other organizations that do these humanitarian missions over the idea of “You give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. You teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” We wanted to be inclusive rather than exclusive of all these viewpoints. We don’t weigh in on the many controversies associated with missionary surgical work as our book focuses on providing a support structure for the children to feel wanted and looked after. We didn’t seek to be controversial, nor to be vacuously politically-correct. Nonetheless some will see our efforts as this, and some as that. No matter.
It was cathartic to write this book, and while it is a small work, it seemed Herculean. From the time we started writing it to its final delivery; we may see it is a Kindle Book or an iPad book instead of the print book that we imagined. Between the two of us, having participated in nearly a dozen missions and treated well over 500 children ranging from newborns to 16 year olds, we have seen and participated in the first-hand angst and triumphs for these children. We have come to appreciate that the mental and psychological well being of these boys and girls is important as well.
We offer this as a small reflection on the work we do as plastic surgeons. The proceeds from this book will go to charity. As part of our ongoing efforts to make this project more accessible the world over, we are working with The American Society of Indian Plastic Surgeons to translate our book to the following languages: Spanish, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Swahili (Kswahili), Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Hmong, French, and Bangladeshi.
–Navin and Sachin
Authors: Dr. Navin Singh and Dr. Sachin Shridharani
Copyright 2010 Washingtonian Plastic Surgery, LLC. ©
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