In this blog posting, I’d like to acknowledge and thank our wonderful partners and sponsors in Venezuela who have this month, and since 1998, enabled our missions in Cumaná to be so successful. 

First among these is the Rotary Club of Cumanagoto, led by President Dr. José Gregorio Hernández.  José Gregorio, as he's known, is the manager of medical services –which includes all the hospitals – for the entire state of Sucre, Venezuela.  Despite his extensive responsibilities, José Gregorio has been on hand every day at the staging area just outside the door to the operating rooms.  He's known for his big smile and for his willingness to do anything possible to meet our needs. 

Cu10A 065 (640x427) José Gregorio is seen here at the ceremony on our last night in Cumaná, where he was among the presenters of certificates and gifts to all of the Rotaplast team members.  In this case, the recepient is the ever-enthusiastic PACU nurse Terese Patrin. 

Our direct link to the hospital, everything we need, and everyone we connect with in Venezuela is Roberto Saettone, the in-country coordinator for Rotaplast.  Roberto is a partially retired university professor who now runs his own company, and he’s a past president of the local Rotary Club.  He has excellent English skills and really knows how to get things done.  Inevitably, small problems occur throughout the day, and Roberto gets them solved. 

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Here's Roberto Saettone in action, and that cell phone is rarely away from his ear!

Our point of service, the Hospital Universitario Antonio Patricio Alcala, has been marvelous about making available to us three of their four operating rooms, and all the other facilities we need.  The hospital has also generously provided nurses and other service staff.  They have been quite tolerant about the disruption to their daily routine that we’ve undoubtedly caused.

The Cumanagoto Rotary Club is both unique and highly exemplary.  With only 27 members, this Rotary Club manages to provide a tremendous amount of community service.  Of prime importance to Rotaplast is the follow-up they provide to our patients. About eight times per year, the club arranges doctor visits to check on progress and continue treatment as required.  This is something that our own mission doctors couldn’t possibly provide.

The Cumanagoto club also runs a low-cost clinic to provide routine medical care for those in need.  This includes dental, orthodontic, and obstetrical services.  The clinic has electro cardiogram and echo sonogram equipment.  Some of these items have been purchased through ten matching grants that the club has received from Rotary International.  Extending its reach even further, the club sends volunteer doctors six times per year into the very rural areas of the state where people generally have no access to modern medicine.

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The Rotaplast team was honored to have a visit from Thomas Hacker, the Rotary District Governor for Venezuela, Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, forming District 4370.  Despite the heat, Governor Hacker arrived well-dressed in jacket and tie, but that won't help you spot him here.  That's him in green scrubs at center, just after his first time observing plastic surgery.  Next to him is José Gregorio, along with some volunteers and journalists.  At left are Dr. Capozzi and Roberto.  By the way, I didn't ask Mr. Hacker which languages he speaks, but he's definitely fluent in Spanish and English.

The Cumanagoto Rotary Club is very active in Rotary International programs, sending and hosting several exchange students every year. In previous Rotaplast missions exchange students have volunteered to translate.  (The club is eagerly looking for placements abroad for its own exchange students.)  The club is also very active hosting Group Study Exchange (GSE) teams every year.  Two members of the Cumanagoto Rotary Club have been GSE team leaders to Australia and Canada.

Last but certainly not least, this club has covered the cost of our lodging and meals in Cumaná.  All in all, the Cumanagoto Rotary Club maintains a very impressive record of life-changing and even life-saving service to the community.

Toyota of Venezuela has also been a huge help to the Rotaplast mission.  Toyota volunteers from the local assembly plant, as well as the headquarters in Caracas, have been on hand every single day to assist as interpreters, patient transporters, etc.  On the pre-clinic day, when I desperately needed bright lighting to supplement my flash equipment to photograph the inside of patients’ mouths, and nothing seemed to be available on site, they tracked down what I needed within 20 minutes.

Other help has come in from Chevron, which provided many volunteer assistants on the pre-clinic day, and from Asotoy, the Association of Toyota Dealers.

Finally, the State of Sucre has been a great help.  Through several social service organizations it has established, Sucre now provides an increasing amount of services to the needy.  These include basic medical care, dental and orthodontic services, and other services to mothers and children.  All of us on the Rotaplast team extend our sincere thanks to the generous members of these fraternal, commercial, and government organizations.  I'll end this post with a photo of a few – well, make it a big "few" – of the volunteers who helped us in Cumaná.IMG_3413