GREAT FALLS - Dr. John Venditti of Great Falls recently traveled to the Philippines with the "Free To Smile" organization.
He went to help children who had cleft lip and palates.
"The issues that these kids face when they have a cleft palate or cleft lip, mainly cleft palate, they can have nutritional issues. They are not able to swallow. They can not take in liquids or foods, it can escape through their soft palate or hard palate,” Venditti said.
A lot of these children are also under-weight and have confidence issues.
Venditti says after 30 hours of travel, they skipped going to the hotel and got right to work.
"We triage about 48 to 50 kids. We came up with a list of who we do surgery on, of course, we did not want to leave anyone out,” Venditti said.
For some of these families, they traveled six to eight hours on a boat to be able to get the child the care they need.
Venditti says they only had to cancel two cases due to the children being too sick on the day of their surgery.
"Overseas, these kids do not have as readily available hospital system or community where they can get treatment at. These kids grow up with low self-esteem but afterward seeing all the kids just smile ear to ear was truly an amazing feeling,” Venditti said.
Venditti says one teenager told him he was excited to eat noodles and also ready to get out and enjoy life.
"He said the one thing he wanted to do was ask a girl out because he was not able to ever to talk. He did not have a palate to talk off of."
Venditti will be traveling to Ethiopia in April for Free to Smile.