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Lt. Col. Matthew Talarczyk, a plastic surgeon from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, performs syndactyly surgery on Isai Carrillo during a May 2 readiness training exercise at Northern Regional Hospital in Orange Walk, Belize. Syndactyly is a condition where the digits of the hand or foot are fused, or webbed, together. U.S. military medical professionals are providing free medical treatments at multiple medical readiness training exercises throughout Belize as part of an exercise called New Horizons. (Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Tony Tolley)
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Wright-Patt surgeon helps boy during exercise

Posted 5/17/2013   Updated 5/17/2013 Email story   Print story


by Capt. Holly Hess
12th Air Force

5/17/2013 - BELIZE CITY, Belize -- Isai Carrillo, a 4-yearold Belizean boy, underwent surgery May 2 to correct syndactyly, otherwise known as hand fusion, in his right hand.

The boy's grandmother brought him to the plastic surgery clinic, hoping the team would be able improve the limited use of his hands.

With help from New Horizons' plastic surgeons, his hand that was once fused now has three fingers.

The surgery took three hours and consisted of separating the fused unit into fingers using skin grafts from his abdomen.

This operation will give the boy more of a pincher mechanism, said Lt. Col. Matthew Talarczyk, a plastic surgeon from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

"It could mean having ease opening up a door," said Colonel Talarczyk, "(It will help with) very little things that can mean a lot in terms of functioning."

This surgery could also help Isai notice fewer differences between him and other children.

"Right now he is 4 years old and at this age; kids are not quite aware yet of the differences that they have compared to other kids," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kerry Latham, plastic surgeon from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Wash. "So, if we can try to get him some more normal looking fingers before he reaches that awareness, it might be nice for him."

This is not only an opportunity for the Belizean boy, but for the team conducting the surgery.

"We are lucky to be working in partnership with the Belizean medical community helping to care for these children," said Colonel Talarczyk."(We) help them with very simple operations, but make a lifelong impact."

"This is one of the most rewarding things that we get to do.

"(We) provide care for these children that wouldn't be able to get it in any other way," said Maj. Dale Capener, anesthesiologist from San Antonio Military Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, "It is also meaningful for (the staff) to experience different cultures and to learn from the local people."

Mercedes Carrillo, Isai's grandmother, was thrilled the boy underwent the surgery.

"I'm feeling happy because I know they are working with our baby. It's a good job that you are doing, and I appreciate that," she said. "I feel so thankful in my heart.

"I want to see something good in his life," she continued. "I know he will appreciate it."
New Horizons is a U.S. Southern Command exercise that gives U.S., Canadian and Belizean personnel an opportunity to train jointly in an exercise setting, in order to be prepared for future challenges. The exercise began April 1 and is scheduled to conclude June 30.

Personnel also provided general medical and dental care.

The project also sponsored the construction of several classrooms throughout Belize.

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