Dr. Quatela is currently in Hanoi, Vietnam on a medical mission trip with the HUGS team. This is HUGS’ third trip to Vietnam, where the team is delivering medical care to patients affected by microtia and other facial deformities.
Microtia is a congenital deformity where the outside of the ear is underdeveloped. Derived from “micro,” meaning small, and “otia,” meaning ear, the condition is often referred to as “small ear.” Microtia can affect only one ear or both. In order to repair microtia, cartilage is removed through an incision from the ribs, which skilled surgeons then meticulously carve and piece together to create the framework for an ear. The framework for the ear is then placed under the scalp and once it has healed, additional surgeries are performed to complete the reconstruction. It takes an average of 5 hours to complete one stage of microtia surgery.
For the current trip to Vietnam, the 24 HUGS team members came from nine different states which include NY, MI, UT, CA, CO, NC, WA, AZ, and MA. It took 24 hours to fly to Hanoi, 15 of which were spent flying from Atlanta, Georgia to Seoul, South Korea.
On the team’s first day at the hospital, there were 25 walk-ins in addition to the patients that were already scheduled for procedures. One man that the team had the privilege of helping had terrible burn scars which disintegrated his ear. Skin grafting was done in addition to the ear framework to create a good result. He was finally able to receive this treatment because of the generous volunteers who are donating their time and expertise.
The HUGS Foundation, Inc., or Help Us Give Smiles, was founded by Dr. Vito Quatela in 2003 with the goal to change the lives of children who are often deprived of a happy life due to lack of medical care. Oftentimes, children with congenital deformities are rejected by their peers, community, and sometimes even their own families. Surgery allows them to not only enhance their appearance, but afford them opportunities that they might not have otherwise.
Since 2003, HUGS medical mission teams have gone on over 18 mission trips and have performed over 900 surgical procedures. These teams consist of world class doctors, nurses and volunteers who dedicate their time, knowledge and passion to help change children’s lives.
For more information about the HUGS Foundation, visit www.helpusgivesmiles.org.