Mead Minutes: The power of being part of a team

Good morning from Davao! The week looks to be busy here at Tebow CURE Hospital. One of the best aspects of orthopedic care at CURE hospitals is the diversity you face. One of the worst aspects of orthopedic care at CURE hospitals is the diversity you face. One child may have a foot and ankle deformity to reconstruct. The next may be a hand procedure, then a spinal deformity. Then comes a child with a dislocated hip. Then… you often need to change gears as the days and week progress.

When I first arrived in Kenya I was overwhelmed. Although I had been in practice for 15 years and had seen quite a wide range of orthopedic problems, it was as if I had fallen down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. I looked at the children in amazement. How could these deformities exist? I would face a difficult problem with no obvious path to correction. Back home, I would send the case to a nearby super-specialist. He or she would order many tests, maybe get other opinions, and then proceed. No stress for me there.

At CURE, the hard decision lies in the internal question, “Can I make this child function better with reasonable risks?” If that is, “possibly, yes,” the surgeon must face the corollary question, “What is the result and cost to the child if the surgery fails?” Starting very early in orthopedic training, young orthopedic residents hear the orthopedic motto: “First, do no harm!”

So you step out of the boat in faith. You have planned as much as possible: reading, teaching the support staff, and looking at your available equipment. You mentally perform the steps of surgery prior to the day. Now, it is time to commit. Surgery proceeds.

CURE surgeons have been blessed with unreasonable—we often say “God-protected”—success rates given the deformities we face using the equipment present and the lack of specialized follow-up care.

My friend Ben shared a story which illustrates this idea. When he was in private practice and a child came in with a complex problem, he would take extra time to study the issues, maybe discuss it with colleagues, maybe present the child at Grand Rounds with all the doctors, and then proceed. After surgery would come a time to relax and relive the case with doctor friends. Another such case would be a while coming.

Working overseas, Ben relates that a weekly clinic may have several of these high-complexity cases. You still prepare, but there is no one close by to discuss the case. You could email and wait, as an option, but there are many waiting. Ben told me the worst issue was that you did the difficult case… and then turned right around and did a second, just as difficult, immediately following. Celebration time and relaxation time do not exist when so many children carry the burden of complex, untreated deformities.

Many CURE hospitals now have teams of physicians, which improves the care. Although there are many difficult cases to evaluate and formulate treatment plans for, you can now share the thoughts with a partner. You can take time, even if it is short, to celebrate a successful procedure.

Before a complicated surgery, Dr. Reyes, Dr. Jun, and Dr. Tim have a meeting in the operating room to come up with a game plan.

Before a complicated surgery, Dr. Reyes, Dr. Jun, and Dr. Tim have a meeting in the operating room to come up with a game plan.

Over time, some of what was initially strange becomes common. Still, nothing beats a partner to share the load, celebrate successes, and mourn failures.

Maybe you are that person who is being called to join the team. CURE International has need of orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons willing to step out in faith to serve. Joining the CURE team will not be an economically wise decision, but after all, it is only money. Joining the vision of CURE, providing emotional, spiritual, and physical healing to children with physical disabilities in the underserved world, opens doors to greater opportunities. You can be the hope which so many children have lost. You can teach others and expand the pool of capable surgeons. You can find a vocation, as Frederick Buechner describes, “where your deepest gladness meets the world’s deepest needs.”

A place I call “in His grip.”


Photo of the Tim Mead

About the Author:

Dr. Mead served as the Medical Director of CURE Kenya from 1999 until 2011. After that, he headed up orthopedics at the CURE Oasis Hospital in Al Ain, UAE, followed by a time as the Medical Director at the Tebow CURE Hospital in the Philippines. Dr. Mead then served as CURE’s Senior Orthopedic Consultant, traveling to various CURE hospitals, supporting and mentoring physicians across the network. He retired from CURE in 2018. Dr. Mead is a U.S. board certified orthopedic surgeon from Muskegon, Michigan, with specialized training in pediatrics. Prior to joining CURE, he ran an orthopedic practice in western Michigan providing a broad range of surgical reconstructive services, including joint replacement and arthroscopic surgery.

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