Infant Inga Beero was born seven months ago with a hole in his face, called a cleft, exposing the inside of his nose, sinuses and part of his upper cheek. And his left eye did not have tear ducts.
Inga’s young mother was struggling to provide for her baby boy and three other children in their small village called Banana on isolated Christmas Island in the central Pacific.
Inga’s future was bleak. Surgery to close the cleft was not available in their island nation. Repeated bouts with infection, eventually involving his brain, would surely kill him, the local doctor said.
But because you care, this story has a happy ending.
Inga’s miracle began three months ago when local physician Dr. John Tekanene pointed the little boy out to us while we were on the island with our PIMA diabetes team. We shared photos with others back home who might help. Dr. Demitri Demetriades, head of the USC/County of Los Angeles Hospital trauma department asked noted cranial surgeon Dr. Mark Urata to consider helping, along with a wonderful organization called Mending Kids International, which could help financially and organize in-home care in the Los Angeles area.
Childrens Hospital of Los Angeles signed on and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was compassionate in giving us a U.S. visa waiver right away for little Inga to come to the United States for surgery.
Our PIMA volunteer diabetes specialist, Dr. Elizabeth Beale, happened to be on Christmas Island when the visa for Inga came through, and she carried him in her arms from this isolated island, through Honolulu and on to Los Angeles, where we were met at Los Angeles International Airport by Cristina Farrut of Mending Kids and home-mother volunteer Mrs. Denise Roche, who cared for Inga for eight weeks while he was in Southern California.
Inga’s surgeries at Childrens Hospital were a complete success, according to Dr. Urata and his doctors and nurses. It was a team effort. Dr. Urata closed the cleft and literally created new tear ducts. We were able to return Inga to his mother and family on Christmas Island early this month.
“It’s the NEW Inga,” says Christmas Island medical officer Dr. Teraira Bangao.
A great big thanks to everyone involved!
Meet the specialist who performed the surgery on little Inga:
Mark M. Urata is head of the Division of Plastic Surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Dr. Urata’s appointment became effective on November 1, 2007.
Dr. Urata had been associated with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as director of Craniofacial Surgery and medical director in the Division of Plastic Surgery.
He is currently director of Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and co-director of the Cleft Team at Shriner’s Hospital in Los Angeles.
Dr. Urata is certified by both the American Board of Plastic Surgery (2005-present) and the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (2007-present).
He specializes in complex craniofacial anomalies, including craniosynostosis, syndromic (Apert, Crouzon, Treacher-Collins, etc.) reconstruction and jaw deformities.
Dr. Urata is an assistant professor of plastic surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California and a research assistant professor in the Center for Craniofacial Molecular Biology at the USC School of Dentistry.