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CHLA doctors make 7,500-mile house call

Jeffrey Hammoudeh, director of the Jaw Deformities Center at CHLA, reviews the X-ray of a young Syrian girl during a humanitarian trip to Jordan. (Photo/Janet Dotson)

Too many young patients, too far away. Instead of bringing the ailing children to Los Angeles, the doctors opted to visit them abroad.

The overseas house call meant a team of plastic surgeons from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) traveled 7,500 miles to Jordan, where they operated on dozens of children with physical deformities too complicated to be treated by doctors at the King Hussein Medical Center in Amman. And the physicians paid for all of it out of their own pockets.

More than 80 complex cases were reviewed the first day of the clinics. In all, the team of surgeons operated on 44 children in four days, including a 10-hour facial bipartition procedure. Diagnoses included hemangiomas, vascular malformations, hand reconstruction, craniofacial reconstruction and numerous cases of ambiguous genitalia, among other abnormalities. The team stayed an extra few days for postoperative checkups.

Joining organizer Jeffrey Hammoudeh, director of the Jaw Deformities Center at CHLA were Mark Urata, holder of the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Chair and chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC; Andre Panossian of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the Keck School and director of the Facial Paralysis Center at CHLA; Andy Chang, assistant professor of urology; Khaled Mutabagani, a urologist from Saudi Arabia; plastic surgeon Andrew Ordon; and reconstructive surgeon Kami Parsa.

The journey was planned in conjunction with the Children of War Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by Hammoudeh and his wife, Amel Najjar.

Helping people across the globe is something Hammoudeh’s colleagues embraced.

“They left their families, their work, their operating schedules,” he said. “There’s no financial compensation. They even have to pay their own hotel or plane ticket.”

The foundation’s focus isn’t just on the Middle East, but on children anywhere whom they can help.

“In our world, ‘cosmetic surgery’ has a special meaning,” Urata said. “Having a facial deformity can be emotionally and socially devastating for kids who simply want to fit in. That’s our job: to help them have a normal childhood.”

Though doctors in Jordan are now treating the children, Los Angeles physicians will keep tabs on them. And while they recover, Hammoudeh is already planning his next trip.

“We’re looking to visit Armenia in 2014,” he said. “There are so many places we can go. There are so many children, so many cases.”

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CHLA doctors make 7,500-mile house call

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