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New Horizons' surgeons give Belizean boy a helping hand

  • Published
  • By Capt. Holly Hess
Isai Carrillo, a 4-year-old Belizean boy, underwent surgery May 2 to correct syndactyly, otherwise known as hand fusion, in his right hand.

The boy's grandmother brought him to the plastic surgery clinic to be seen with hopes the team would be able improve the limited use of his hands.

With help from New Horizons' plastic surgeons, his hand that was once fused now has three fingers. The surgery took three hours and consisted of separating the fused unit into fingers using skin grafts from his abdominal area.

This operation will give the boy a little more of a pincher mechanism, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Matthew Talarczyk, plastic surgeon from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

"It could mean ... having ease opening up a door," said Talarczyk, "[It will help with] very little things that can mean a lot in terms of functioning."

This surgery could also help Isai notice fewer differences between him and other children.

"Right now he is 4 years old and at this age, kids are not quite aware yet of the differences that they have compared to other kids," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kerry Latham, plastic surgeon from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington. "So, if we can try to get him some more normal looking fingers, before he reaches that awareness, it might be nice for him."

This is not only an opportunity for the Belizean boy, but for the team conducting the surgery, as well.

"We are lucky to be working in partnership with the Belizean medical community helping to care for these children," said Talarczyk."[We] help them with very simple operations, but make a lifelong impact."

"This is one of the most rewarding things that we get to do. [We] provide care for these children that wouldn't be able to get it in any other way," said Maj. Dale Capener, anesthesiologist from San Antonio Military Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, "It is also meaningful for [the staff] to experience different cultures and to learn from the local people."

Mercedes Carrillo, grandmother of Isai, was thrilled the boy underwent the surgery.

"I'm feeling happy because I know they are working with our baby. It's a good job that you are doing, and I appreciate that," she said. "I feel so thankful in my heart."

"I want to see something good in his life," she continued. "I know he will appreciate it."

The plastic surgery readiness training exercise is scheduled to run April 24 to May 11. Currently 18 patients have been treated.

New Horizons is a U.S. Southern Command exercise that gives U.S., Canadian and Belizean personnel an opportunity to train jointly in an exercise setting, in order to be prepared to meet future challenges. The exercise began April 1 and is scheduled to run until June 30. Personnel also provided general medical care, dental care and are building several classrooms throughout Belize as part of the training.