Email Article

Posted: May 14, 2018

Crew of USNS LUMMUS donates to Smile Train Philippines

Officers and crewmembers of the USNS Lummus - (standing left to right) Chief Engineer Michael Fagan, Ordinary Seaman Charles Catunao, Electronics Officer Clifford Ward and Captain David Hagner - gather with Smile Train's Director for the Philippines Kimmy Flaviano, Dr. Edmund Mercado and Ambyth Shipping Agent Marlon Punzalan at the Smile Train Philippines Foundation, Inc. partner hospital in Pampanga.

By Captain David L. Hagner
USNS 1st Lt. Jack Lummus

A few weeks ago, LUMMUS accepted an invitation by Smile Train Philippines Foundation, Inc. to visit a partner hospital in Pampanga, where corrective surgeries are performed for children born with cleft lip and/or cleft palate. On May 10, four of us made the visit, along with Ambyth Shipping Agent Marlon Punzalan (the Ambyth family of companies and its principals were generous sponsors of fundraising efforts for Smile Train in 2017). We took along a $1,000 gift from the crew of LUMMUS.

We first had lunch with Smile Train's Director for the Philippines Kimmy Flaviano and Dr. Edmund Mercado, a plastic surgeon who performs some of the procedures. Chief Engineer Mike Fagan and Electronics Officer Cliff Ward, also prior Smile Train donors, were two of the attendees. Ordinary Seaman Charles Catunao was an excellent representative for LUMMUS' crew.

Cleft disorders affect about one in 700 births worldwide, and a greater proportion here in the Philippines (roughly one in 500). Kids born with cleft can have trouble eating and speaking and, in some cultures, they and their families are treated as the objects of superstitious contempt and harsh exclusion. Kimmy indicates that Smile Train performs more than 5,000 procedures annually here in the Philippines, but their efforts must extend to such details as inter-island travel for patients and families, follow-up treatments (many children require a series of surgeries), and even social work to persuade skeptically reluctant families that the procedure is actually free.

Dr. Mercado, a comparatively wealthy and accomplished surgeon, performs this work on a near-voluntary basis. He was proud to introduce his patients and to share a few emotional stories of how his handiwork has improved lives.

Generally, Thursdays and Fridays are the days when procedures and/or follow-ups are conducted at this hospital. We saw about six post-op children who had undergone the procedure yesterday, another dozen or so who were there for follow-up assessment or removal of sutures, and a few infants who were there for pre-op assessment.

Ordinary Seaman Charles Catunao presents a $1,000 donation from the crew of the USNS Lummus to Smile Train's Director for the Philippines Kimmy Flaviano.