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Friday, Dec 8, 2023

Mending Kids Offers Non-Emergency Surgeries

Not everyone who needs surgery can afford it. That’s why Mending Kids, a pediatric nonprofit in Glendale, is holding its seventh annual “Hometown Mission” July 27 in Los Angeles. The mission is to provide free surgeries for patients ages 21 and under whose families are unable to pay a deductible because of insurance coverage, documentation status, loss of income or other reasons. “We are catching the kids that fall through the cracks,” Mending Kids Executive Director Isabelle Fox told the Business Journal. The organization is currently recruiting young patients for procedures that don’t require overnight hospitalization. Around 35 people so far have expressed interest in participating, but not all are eligible — patients must pass through a pre-operative screening process to qualify and the conditions must meet certain criteria, too. Mending Kids plans to operate on about 20 patients at the July event. Procedures can include orthopedic, plastic or reconstructive urology, eye, ear, nose and throat surgeries. “A lot has to do with scars or birthmarks,” Fox said. “Maybe you broke your arm and it didn’t set properly. It could be a hairy nevus, which is a birthmark on your face. Sometimes they can be disfiguring but insurance deems them cosmetic and doesn’t cover it.” Mending Kids started organizing Hometown Missions in 2013 to help children in Southern California and Arizona whose conditions were considered “non-life threatening” by insurance providers. Many of these conditions influence how a child sees themselves. Such was the case for Jorge Trejo, 9, of Lancaster, according to his father, Juan. Three years ago, when Jorge was 6, his family started looking for ways to remove a large, dark birthmark between his eye and cheek that was crushing his self-esteem. Insurance offered no help, and Jorge’s family was unable to cover the deductible. Mending Kids offered the only viable solution. “He didn’t want to have any conversations, nothing with the outside world away from his family. Other kids were already noticing and making fun of him, bullying him,” said Juan Trejo. “(Mending Kids) was like a miracle. Today, he has no more birthmark. We noticed right away he was changing. He started smiling to others, he started having interest in talking to other kids. He’s a happy boy now.” Surgeries will take place at the Specialty Surgical Center of Beverly Hills by a volunteer team of board-certified surgeons, recovery nurses and anesthesiologists. A grant from Open Hearts Foundation will help underwrite the cost of using the surgical center space and will pay for supplies, post-operative prescriptions and travel costs for patients’ families. The organization wants to expand the Hometown Missions program into a continuous, year-round service rather than a once-a-year happening. “I don’t have a shortage of people that are willing to volunteer to do this kind of support,” Fox said. “It’s conceivable that we could have a (Hometown Mission) once a month.” She pointed to Jorge’s case — his birthmark removal required three surgeries. “Because we only have missions once a year, it literally took three years to help him,” Fox said. “In my dream of dreams, I’d have a web of surgical centers across the U.S. able to place a child who needs care, and have it taken care of.” Mending Kids was founded in 1993 and has helped more than 4,000 children in 65 countries through overseas and domestic missions.

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