Miracle and Raven and moms
From left: Miracle; Miracle’s mom, Natalie; Raven; Raven’s mom, Catherine.
Raven and Miracle are two girls from Barbados who are unable to enjoy the simple childhood pleasures of running around in play. They’re in Richmond for surgery and treatment that will correct a condition known as Blount’s disease, which has left their legs bowed inward at a 60-degree angle. That prevents them from running and makes simply moving about painful and awkward.
“Right now, getting around is difficult,” says Dr. Chester Sharps, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Tuckahoe Orthopaedics and a World Pediatric Project volunteer, who is working with the girls.
The cause of the condition is unknown. Untreated, it may become progressively worse and leave a child crippled.
It can be corrected, though, and the 7-year-olds are here for treatment at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital. After surgery and treatment, they should be able to walk, run and grow like other children.
Surgery is set for next week. The surgery will be followed by the use of braces that require regular adjustments as determined by a computer program, Sharps explains in an interview. That’s the part of the treatment that takes the most time, and the entire process will take four to six months.
Blount’s is a growth disorder that occurs in about one in a thousand births. In the United States, children with the condition are generally treated when they are toddlers (18 months to age 2 or so) by placing them in braces, with no surgery required, Sharps says. Some with more severe symptoms may also require surgical procedures, but those are typically much less invasive than what is required in treating Miracle and Raven.
Sharps learned about the children during a trip this year to Barbados as part of a team with the Richmond-based World Pediatric Project (WPP). The nonprofit provides critical pediatric medical services in the Caribbean and Central America and helps create preventive programs.
The treatment the girls need is unavailable in Barbados; two doctors from the Caribbean island will observe the surgery and learn how to conduct the treatment.
“We live in a country rich in medical care,” Sharps says, in a follow-up email. “Every specialist is readily available. I am fortunate to be a pediatric orthopedic surgeon here. Our children are well cared for. But 90 percent of the world has access to 10 percent of the medical care. With WPP, I have a chance to reach out to children who otherwise would not get the care they need.
“The personal satisfaction I receive in helping others who would not get fixed, if I did not fix them, is overwhelming sometimes. I've had children and parents who thought it was just their lot in life to have a severe orthopedic condition. I remember a particular father who, when I said I could fix his daughter's bowed legs, was incredulous. Then he began to cry, explaining that it was his dream that his daughter could walk down the street one day without people pointing and laughing. We then straightened those legs and they were so thankful!
"It is not money [the medical care is pro bono] and it's not so others can say how great I am. It is making a difference in someone's life. Heal a child, change the world."
The families will be housed throughout the treatment in Richmond at The Doorways.
World Pediatric Project arranged for their basic needs and costs including flights, food and medication. The braces were provided in partnership with Tuckahoe Orthopaedics, according to WPP.
Raven and Miracle are two of 22 children that WPP has helped to receive care in Richmond since July 1 (there were 45 children treated here through the nonprofit last year). The group reports it also has helped about the same number of children to receive care through its office in St. Louis.
Last year, WPP medical teams helped 2,260 children in nine countries. The organization expects to exceed its goal for this year, which is to help 1,900 children.
World Pediatric Project medical teams for overseas work draw about 150 volunteers from the Richmond area. WPP also has about twice that number of volunteers who are nonmedical professionals who work with the families and patients in Richmond. Those volunteers provide anything from transportation to appointments to social and emotional support. Learn more about volunteering opportunities here.
“We are always in need of more volunteers and donors willing to help make a difference for children in developing countries,” says Jason Kenney, communication manager for WPP.
Financial donations are also needed. Last year, WPP said it raised about $3.2 million. It estimates that each dollar generated turns into $4 through in-kind donations from health professionals, institutes and suppliers.
WPP has two events in Richmond in October and November:
Hoedown With Hope, its fourth annual children’s concert, will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. on Oct. 18 at Westhampton Field, 901 Maple Ave. The event will feature music by Hope Harris & the Cousins Jamboree, along with games, snacks and activities. Admission is $10, but there’s no charge for ages 2 and younger.
Treasures in Paradise, the 11th annual auction fundraiser for the nonprofit, will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 13 at the WPP headquarters, 7201 Glen Forest Drive. Cocktail attire is requested.
New Group, Familiar Mission
A Richmond nonprofit that provides mammograms and other breast cancer screening services to low-income and under-insured women is being replaced by a new entity.
Reach Out For Life will provide services that formerly were provided by the nonprofit Ellen Shaw de Paredes Breast Cancer Foundation, which filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection on Oct. 2.
The foundation board created the new nonprofit. Its website has a landing page that says it “has assumed full responsibility for the Free Mammography Outreach Program.” The website is not yet fully operational. A Reach Out For Life launch event will be held at a later date.
The foundation is a separate entity from the Ellen Shaw de Paredes Institute for Women’s Imaging, which is in no way affected by the changes.
Last year, the mammography outreach program provided services to 338 women, according to information provided previously by the foundation. The foundation also provided physician training, but Reach Out For Life will focus solely on the mammography outreach program, according to Richmond attorney Roy M. Terry Jr. of Sands Anderson PC.
“It begins now and picks up that program so there is no interruption,” Terry said on Tuesday.
The changes also have no impact of the services in Richmond of Nueva Vida, a separate entity that works to empower Latino families affected by cancer, which was set to use office space provided in the foundation’s old offices on Patterson Avenue.
The foundation was created in 2005 by Shaw de Paredes, a noted radiologist who died last year.
It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and there are several observances across the area, including Pink for a Purpose, to be held from 5 to 9 tonight at the Short Pump Town Center main plaza, 11800 W. Broad St.
It’s a fundraiser for the Bon Secours Richmond Health Care Foundation Cancer Care Fund and will feature fare from several restaurants and wine and food tastings.
You also can talk with breast health experts and schedule a mammogram. An illumination ceremony will be held in honor of breast cancer survivors and fighters.
Admission is $25, with all proceeds going to the cancer care fund. You’ll find a list of participating restaurants and merchants and can purchase tickets here.