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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkVallarta Living | June 2009 

Changing Kid's Lives One Smile at a Time
email this pageprint this pageemail usPatricia Mendez - PVNN

Since 1986, the IFC has funded a Cleft Palate program that provides free medical consultation and treatment to underprivileged children born with a cleft palate or harelip. Your donations are instrumental in creating new faces for the children.
The Puerto Vallarta Cleft Palate Program was started in 1986 by Celia and Ron Walker. After learning that a friend's baby had been born with a cleft palate, they went searching for a surgeon who could help this family - and found him in Guadalajara.

Soon there was another child who needed the same help and they went back to that surgeon in Guadalajara. Eventually, they had more children to help than they could transport. Ron then thought to ask the surgeon to come to Vallarta and perform the surgeries here.

As a result, Ron and some friends formed the International Friendship Club of Puerto Vallarta to fund the program. The IFC has a Home Tour program twice a week during the winter in Vallarta to take people to the homes of the rich and famous - and those that are just architecturally interesting - and charge $25 USD per person. The owners of these homes donate access to their homes.

We also wrote and published a cookbook, currently sold out, which was sold to raise funds. This year we received a grant from Smile Train, which has enabled us to continue to run the program in this "time of economic challenge."

About the Program

The Puerto Vallarta Cleft Palate Program runs at 3 month intervals, usually the first week of the month, four times a year... February, May, August and November.

Upcoming programs are announced 6 weeks before the scheduled date with the help of the Vallarta Opina, Tribuna, El Sol and El Meridiano newspapers and the Explosiva radio stations - all of which provide the program with free publicity.

The first step is the scheduling of consultas on Wednesday afternoons at the Hospital Regional, where 40-60 prospective patients line up to see the surgeons, who select 10-14 patients for surgery the following day.

The patients enter the hospital on Thursday morning. The surgeons perform the surgeries all day Thursday, and the patients stay overnight in the hospital. The next day, Friday, the surgeons visit the patients, change bandages as needed, give instructions for care and release them around noon. Follow-up care is provided by Dr. Ricardo Rivera at Clinica Intermedica the next day, Saturday, and twice a week thereafter.

Working Together to Make it Happen

Our surgeons are Doctor Ezequiel Fuentes Lopez and Dr. Rodolfo Becerra Castañeda, and their instrumentistas are Enfermero Emma Gonzalez Serna, chief of nursing at Sanatorio Versalles, Enf. Maria del los Angeles Alvarado of the Instituto Jaliscence de Cirugia Reconstructiva, and anesthesiologist Dr. Emigdio de la Cruz Llontop Pisil, also of the Instituto Jaliscence de Cirugia Reconstructiva.

The doctors bring all their surgical instruments with them, and the IFC buys the surgical supplies that are needed. The program has, since its inception, been held at the Hospital Regional de Puerto Vallarta, which offers their facilities at no charge.

We buy the airline tickets for the medical team and provide them with donated housing for their stay. We need an Angel to help us with the cost of the airline tickets or to help us convince AeroMexico to donate 5 PVR-GDL round trip tickets 4 times a year.

Various restaurants in Puerto Vallarta support the program by donating dinners or offering our medical personnel and volunteers reduced prices. For example, Daiquiri Dick's has been donating Wednesday night dinners to our group for at least 16 years, and we appreciate them very much. Tari and Peter Bowman and their staff have huge hearts and don't stint at all in their support of our program. Thursday night is up for grabs... step right up and invite 8 tired, hungry volunteers for dinner.

The biggest item on the wish list is an additional anesthesia machine for the Regional Hospital. We have one electrocauterizer, but we could definitely use another one. We are also in need of donations of some of the medications used in surgery, such as diazepam, sodipental, anectine, Afrin, sterile sutures, YANKOW suction, disposable head covers, booties, face masks, gloves, and scrub sponges.

In the years that the IFC Cleft Palate Program has been in operation we have served over 300 patients, ranging from 3 months to 90 years of age. By far, the majority of our patients are disadvantaged children between 3 months and 15 years old.

With your support, Puerto Vallarta's more than twenty-year-old Cleft Palate Program will continue to provide services to the local population for as long as the need exists.

If you wish to contribute to this worthwhile program, please contact the Puerto Vallarta International Friendship Club at (322) 222-5466, medical chairperson Patricia Mendez at 044-322-728-7519 or casatranquila(at), send an email to ifcvallarta(at), or visit

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the included information for research and educational purposes • m3 © 2009 BanderasNews ® all rights reserved • carpe aestus