I like to have fun here on Twenty Four At Heart. I frequently make fun of myself as well as Orange County. Today, however, I'm opening my heart to you in a way I never have before. I want to share something special with you. It's something that touches my heart deeply.
Many of you remember I went through breast reduction surgery last summer. I did this at the urging of my orthopedic surgeon post car accident. I ended up with smaller boobs and bionic nipples which provided me with all sorts of blog fodder.
What I didn't tell you is, I came home from the party with a DVD. A few days after the party I sat in my family room watching the DVD and bawled. The DVD exposed me to stories unlike any I'd ever seen before. Today, I'd like to share a portion of what I learned with you.
Dr. Nichter began a foundation called Plasticos in 1999. Plasticos is a volunteer organization dedicated to providing life-changing reconstructive plastic surgery to people who are unable to afford it on their own. The organization has made trips all over the world helping people (mainly children, but adults too) who would never have the opportunity to live a normal life otherwise.
Perhaps I was touched by the first DVD I watched because I have my own disability to grapple with as a result of my car accident. Whatever the reason, the knowledge Plasticos is helping people achieve normality and overcome obstacles in their lives is a cause I care deeply about.
This little boy is named Jose.
I'm sorry this picture is so pixelated, but I think you can see enough to understand Jose was born with a cleft lip, and palate, as well as deformities to his ears. If Jose had been born in the United States, he would have had surgery to correct his deformities in his first three months of life. Jose was four years old when he met the doctors from Plasticos.
This is a picture of Jose shortly after surgery. You can see he still needs to heal from his surgery.
You can also see a remarkable improvement.
Plasticos takes their efforts one step further than similar organizations. When they travel to third world countries (India, Laos, Vietnam, Cuba, etc.) they teach the doctors in the host country how to perform the surgeries themselves. When the Plasticos staff departs a few weeks later, the doctors they leave behind can carry on with their new knowledge and skills.
What is the saying? Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.
I don't know this gentleman's name, but can you imagine living into adulthood like this?
Plasticos works on a lot more than just cleft lips and palates. I've watched videos of people with hands, arms, and legs which did not function prior to surgery. Some of the patients are born with abnormalities, some have been involved in accidents, and some are victims of violence or abuse. All of their lives were forever changed by the Plasticos team.
In the time since I watched the initial DVD I was given, I've viewed several DVDs of other Plastico trips. (There have been 51 trips in all.) I've also talked to Dr. Nichter about his organization on the phone at length, and interviewed him for over two hours in his office.
I'm not exaggerating in the least when I say I'm in awe of him.
(I bet he's blushing right now!)
But seriously, I am.
Did I mention Dr. Nichter was named the Child Help Humanitarian of the Year for Orange County? The work he's doing with Plasticos is valiant. When you learn he frequently writes checks to cover Plasticos expenses himself, you realize he's even more remarkable.
The girl shown in the picture below is fourteen. She was burned severely at age two in a cooking accident. (Her family cooks on an open fire.) Since being burned, her leg hasn't been able to function. The burned skin was constricted. She walked with the aid of a stick for twelve years.
Shortly after surgery she was able to take her first steps since the age of two:
The majority of Plasticos' patients are children, but some of the stories of adults touched my heart incredibly. In many cultures, a deformity results in being ostracized. As an example, in some countries people are not allowed jobs, or to marry, if they have any type of abnormality.
Dr. Nichter has taken his expertise, and with a team of doctors, nurses, and staff, he's set out to make a profound difference in the world. He's succeeding. Thousands of peoples' lives are dramatically better because of the work Plasticos is doing. Children who had been ostracized and shamed are now able to hold their heads up and walk with pride.
Tomorrow I will share with you the story which has moved me the most. It's about a young woman in India. It was her story that caused me to cry when I watched my first Plasticos DVD. It's both a heart-wrenching and uplifting story.
Perfect for the holidays, don't you think?
In the meantime, if you're interested you can watch a short video on the Plasticos Foundation by clicking here. And/or if you'd like to help Plasticos they have a donate button on their website or you can simply click here. (Donations are tax deductible.)
P.S. Because I know someone will ask … Each Plasticos trip costs around $50,000. Every donation, no matter how small, helps.
P.P.S. The Plasticos Foundation is in need of warehouse space here in Orange County. If you're an Orange County business and might be able to help, please contact Plasticos.
© Twenty Four At Heart