(Sioux Falls, SD) – On a recent trip to Pakistan, Sanford Health plastic surgeon Rif’ At Hussain, MD was performing surgery on a 12-year-old boy when the power went out, and the back-up generator also failed, forcing him to literally complete the operation in the dark.
“I told someone to go get a flashlight,” says Dr. Hussain. “I had six more children on my surgery schedule that day, and I was not going to stop until it was done.”
The operation was one of 85 that Dr. Hussain performed during two back-to-back surgical outreach trips to Pakistan as part of a new Sanford World Clinic outreach program. The need for surgical treatment for cleft cases in Pakistan is significant as an estimated 40,000 children are born each year with this defect. Cleft lip/cleft palate are birth defects that leave patients with openings in their lips and/or the roof of their mouth.Dr. Hussain completed the cleft palate operation on the 12-year-old boy literally in the dark while another person was holding the flashlight over his shoulder.
This is just one example of the challenges this physician faces when he travels to do surgery on children born with cleft lip and cleft palate. Despite the challenges, he has traveled to Pakistan every year since 1975 to help repair, reconstruct and restore the faces of these children.
“We have to come up with creative solutions to handle the challenges and problems that arise,” says Dr. Hussain. “Fixing a cleft palate is a difficult surgery under the best of conditions so in such difficult situations we try to do our best - to work with what is available there. We get to make a person with a cleft lip regain his human face, to transform and change the course of their life in the most positive manner possible.”
Dr. Hussain added, “I am who I am because of my face and for all of us there is nothing as important as our face. It is the first thing everyone sees and it affects every aspect of life.”
The Sanford World Clinic cleft lip and palate outreach program builds off of the Sanford World Clinic mission of delivering sustainable healthcare to communities, domestic and developing nations, with limited access to care.
About Sanford Health
Sanford Health is an integrated health system headquartered in Fargo, ND and Sioux Falls, SD and consists of two long-standing organizations that merged in 2009. Sanford is now the largest, rural, not-for-profit health care system in the nation with locations in 112 communities in seven states. In addition, Sanford Health is in the process of developing international clinics in Ireland, Ghana, Israel and Mexico.
Sanford Health includes 34 hospitals, 116 clinic locations and nearly 1000 physicians in 70 specialty areas of medicine. With more than 20,000 employees, Sanford Health is the largest employer in North and South Dakota. The system is experiencing dynamic growth and development in conjunction with Denny Sanford's $400 million gift in 2007, the largest gift ever to a health care organization in America, and then a $100 million gift in 2010. These gifts are making possible the implementation of the several initiatives including global children's clinics, multiple research centers and finding a cure for type 1 diabetes and breast cancer.