Shelton resident Isabelle Kao went on a one-week medical mission to Trimcomalee, Sri Lanka, in an effort to donate medical equipment and provide patients with free surgical procedures.
Kao, who works as a patient care assistant at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, left for the mission May 26, went as a volunteer with staff members from St. Luke’s Hospital and Montefiore Hospital in New York. She is currently completing her post-baccalaureate pre-medical studies at Hunter College.
“We went to Trincomalee because it was hit hard by the tsunami of 2004,” Kao said. “It was also associated with military battles and suicide bombings during Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war.”
The visit was part of an effort to donate medical equipment to Trincomalee General Hospital and provide patients with free general, orthopedic, and Ear, Nose and Throat surgical procedures.
The medical mission was inspired by her friend Nientara Anderson who is enrolled in the post-baccalaurette program at Hunter College.
“She recognized the need for access to quality care and arranged for a team of top surgeons from St. Luke’s Hospital and Montefiore Hospital in New York to participate,” she said.
The preparation for the visit took roughly a year to plan. About $9,000 was raised for the mission at benefits in Washington D.C. and New York.
The majority of the supplies used were donated by St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital. Kao said there was also participation from two non-profit organizations, The United Aid Foundation and Bridge2Peace.
While she was in Trincomalee, Kao said she was responsible for monitoring patients in the recovery area and recording the patient stories, surgeries and the daily work process at the hospital. She also became one of the mission photographers.
“It was truly an eye-opening experience,” she said. “Unlike the patients at home, the patients there were unassuming, extremely grateful, and patient.”
Kao also said she was impressed with the unwavering tolerance exhibited by the patients in Sri Lanka while they were waiting to be operated on. She said there was sometimes a twelve-hour wait in a crowded room and the patients would have to sit on a hard bench without receiving food or drink.
Within four days Kao and the other doctors of the mission performed 39 surgeries both general and orthopedic.
“As of today,” Kao said, “all the patients are doing well and have since been discharged home.”
Another medical mission to Sri Lanka will be take place next year. To make a donation, visit www.unitedaidfoundation.org and include Sri Lanka Mission 2013 under “instructions to seller” in the final part of the payment process. Checks may also be made out to the United Aid Foundation, 305 Seventh Avenue, Suite 1101, New York, N.Y. with Sri Lanka Medical Mission 2013 included in the memo line.