After 24 hours of travel, including three hours getting through customs, you could forgive Dr. William Brown for wanting to sleep in on the first morning of his biannual Africa trip. But, patients were waiting.
Brown is a plastic surgeon from Denver who travels to Tanzania with the 501(c)3 One World Medical Relief. Most of the patients he sees are children with cleft lip and pallet, and burns.
"Children with cleft lip and cleft pallet, there's a significant instance of malnutrition," Brown said. "One if five kids will die before the age of five. If we can change some of that, if we can give them a normal life I'm all in."
Anesthesiologist Dr. David Theil has been traveling to Tanzania with Brown for the past 10 years.
"We have a lot of anesthesia challenges, because the kids are undernourished, they're often anemic and they have bad lungs because they've been living in a smoky hut," he said.
The doctors work in hospitals where bed space is scarce. They partner with safari companies that bring in tents and cots to keep their patients in safe healing environments. One World Medical Relief also works with the Plaster House, a rehabilitation center for children recovering from disability correcting surgeries.
"This is a very gratifying experience without question," Theil said. "These children really would have no hope of getting fixed without us going over there.
Brown says his patients have no easy access to hospitals in Tanzania. He tells the story of a boy attacked by a leopard to illustrate his point.
"It ate part of his face," Brown said. "He walked for two days to get to a road, spent three days on trucks getting shuffled to our hospital and then it happened to be the week before I was going to be there."
The doctors don't make any money on these trips and much of the cost comes out of their pockets. Still, they keep going back.
"We know the Maasai and the people in Tanzania are counting on us to come back," Theil Said.
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