Interplast and RMHC Loja surgical trip

Hello. I am Bob Langert, senior director of Social Responsibility at McDonald's. I am currently accompanying an Interplast volunteer surgical team to Loja, Ecuador. On this blog, I will share some of my thoughts and impressions.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Check Out Other Interplast Blogs

Interplast has other blogs running in countries such as Peru and Vietnam, with more to come. Check them out at

Friday, February 04, 2005

And to finish, some of the changed lives:

Loja Kid 3

Loja kid 3
Originally uploaded by interplast.

Loja Kid 2

Loja kid 2
Originally uploaded by interplast.

Loja Kid 1

Originally uploaded by interplast.
One of the cutest kids Interplast has helped in Loja.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Dr. Nadia Afridi, Dr. Richard Gillerman, Jose Luis Salazar, Bob Langert at a Press Conference in Quito

Yesterday, Dr. Richard Gillerman and Dr. Nadia Afridi joined our managing director, Jose Luis Salazar, and me, for a press conference at a McDonald’s restaurant in Quito to summarize our wonderful trip. At the press conference, I summarized a couple of my lessons. First, I said if I can return back to my "normal"€ life with just a portion of the humanitarian spirit that this Interplast team of surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses possess, I would be a very fortunate man. I also learned first-hand the difference one individual can make. The financial support for missions like this are vital, but personal involvement is needed, too.

Raise the Bar on Corporate Volunteerism

There are cynics who are suspicious of corporate motivations for philanthropy. My takeaway from this awesome experience is to keep giving—but raise the bar on corporate volunteerism. While keeping the fiscal contributions flowing, the corporate world and its work force can do more to balance the equation. We need half money / half big-hearted people. Beyond what they do in their own communities, employees can get directly involved with causes and nonprofit organizations that their company supports. After all, corporations relish win-win situations. I know the Loja patients like Francisco, Wilma, Angel and Gladys won. I know the Interplast team sure had a winning feeling, including me. Ronald McDonald House Charities wins by making these smart grants where the number of children that are directly and tangibly helped keeps multiplying. Lastly, McDonald’s wins because our business is not just about serving food and fun. Giving back is not a corporate shell game; it is about doing our small part to add to a sustainable society.

Our Last Night in Loja

Dr. Nelson Samaniego
Originally uploaded by interplast.
It is tradition to have a celebratory dinner with those from the hospital and Loja that helped us provide medical care for the children. The grand prize for leadership in their community ought to go to Dr. Nelson and Cora Samaniego, who are the local partners to Interplast that due a myriad of efforts to support, promote and coordinate the mission trip

Cora Samaniego

Cora Samaniego
Originally uploaded by interplast.

Changing Lives

We capped the evening with a surprise song. I wrote the lyrics, and Helena Hellberg sang it to the tune of Amazing Grace. Her voice was as lovely as the entire experience.


Changing lives
With Interplast.
They bring a smile to all!
And special gifts they bring to bare,
But most of all they care.

Changing lives
Right here in Loja.
Our partners are the best!
The Samaniego’s paved the way,
We wish we all could stay.

Changing lives
Now back home we go,
With lasting memories!
Y queremos a ustedes agradezerles ya,
El ayuda que siempre nos dan.

Interplast Loja Team Picture

Originally uploaded by interplast.
Team picture: seated, left to right: Bob Langert, Lisa Gould, Richard Gillerman, Nadia Afridi, Tom Moore, and Jim Mahoney. Standing, left to right: Barb Cummins, Katherine Griffin, Pam St. Louis, Ken Bloome, Dawn Yost, Helena Hellberg, and Steve Parker.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

More to Come, Bear With Me...

I have another set of pictures to come, and more information, but I have been really busy coming home back to America, adjusting to Chicago weather, and spending time with my family. I will have more up tommorrow morning, I promise.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Numbers Do Not Tell The Whole Story

Today is our last day. The numbers are important, but they do not convey the teamwork and coordinated effort that is necessary to achieve such a successful Interplast trip. Our two weeks in Loja achieved the following: 139 initial clinic evaluations; 65 registered patients; and 57 operations that totaled 97 procedures. There were 20 clefts; 32 burns; and 45 other procedures (mostly ear and hand cases).

You have seen many photos of the patients whose lives where changed during this trip. They all touched me so much. I am very proud of Ronald McDonald House Charities for sponsoring this trip, and extremely grateful for my own volunteer experience. I have lived and breathed the whole picture of what it takes to deliver the medical care for the people served here, and I have felt apart of something very special, unique, and compassionate.

This is one of my last entries on this blog, and I wanted to finish with a tribute to the Interplast team themselves. If I have absorbed and retained just a portion of their humanitarian selflessness, I will be a fortunate recipient of their generous spirit.

The Anesthesiologist: From Invisibility to Transparency

Beforehand, I never knew the important role of the anesthesiologist. Now I realize the skills and importance of their work. And they were flawless during the trip. From left to right: Dr. Richard Gillerman was not only a tireless team leader, but a wonderful roommate. Dr. Jim Mahoney was a great jokester (the wrench in the picture did have a purpose!--to close off the oxygen take behind him). Dr. Steve Parker made an impression upon me the very first day when he told me I would be surprised about the vital nature of the anesthesiologist's work. And I was.

The Surgeons: Tremendously Skilled and Generous

Any preconceived notions I had of surgeons were immediately eliminated as Doctors Nadia Afridi, Tom Moore (Chief of Surgery), and Lisa Gould generously included me in on their work and thoughts. I not only gained even more respect for the technical nature of what they do, but most of all I saw how they interacted with their patients and cared for them so much.

The Operating Room Nurses: Always on the Move

Dawn Yost and Pam St. Louis
Originally uploaded by interplast.
It was hard to pin down Dawn Yost and Pam St. Louis because they hardly relaxed. They were the first to arrive because they set everything up and they were the last to leave. In the operating room, they helped and assisted the surgeons seamlessly.

The Recovery Room Nurses: Bringing Comfort

I wrote in an earlier blog about the recovery room. Besides comfort, the recovery room nurses also bring a sense of joy and fun to the patients who need a boost when they wake up after surgery. Here is Barb Cummins and Katherine Griffin, flanking hospital nurse, Eva, enjoying some Ecuadorian music.

The Pediatrician: Care Personified

Dr. Ken Bloome is here with a pair of pediatric nurses, including the hospital chief of pediatrics on his left. I spent a lot of time with Ken, and I hope that I, by osmosis, have taken in some of his compassion, humor and engaging personality.

The Support Team

Helena and Bob
Originally uploaded by interplast.
Helena Hellberg and I rounded up the team. Helena kept the records and continuously translated for the team. Helena has a great future ahead of her. For me, I tried to fulfill my "gofer" job responsibilities, and through this blog, I hope that I have captured the essence of an Interplast team.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Originally uploaded by interplast.
The first girl I saw upon arrival at the hospital had mesmerizing brown eyes and incredibly smooth skin. Fany, 1½ years old, and her mother were slotted into the schedule last minute. She is in for a macrostomia repair, which is a little unusual as I understand it (notice the left side of Fany's mouth and the cleft opening that stretches to her ear).

Return of the Saraguro

Lourdes' Extra Toe
Originally uploaded by interplast.
Pictured here is Pam St. Louis getting 12 year old Saraguro native Lourdes ready for surgery to remove an extra toe (polydacaly). Lourdes is pictured earlier in this blog as well, during the clinic. I talked to Lourdes and her mother Maria later. Lourdes said she couldn't wait to wear shoes and run with her friends.

The Making of an Ear

Dr. Tom Moore made an ear today. I witnessed what Tom had told me about the first day--magic unfolding. Tom went on to take a rib graft and then artistically craft it into the shape of an ear. I was impressed, as I am sure the teenage boy will be, Fredy. The past day has had a steady flow of the unusual, including the return of the Saraguro.

A Very Proud Woman

A Very Proud Woman
Originally uploaded by interplast.
Lourdes mother (pictured with Helena, Ken and Richard of Interplast) is a fascinating character. She has six children; widowed for 10 years; makes cheese for a living; and is a very proud woman. I had to retake a Polaroid picture of her because she did not like her hair. So she went into the bathroom, wetted and combed her hair, repositioned her clothes, all in order to retake a photo she could bring back to her village.

Much Accomplished

As we finished the day, we had completed over 80 procedures since our arrival in Loja 11 days ago…and it continues to mesmerize me.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Air Gladys

Air Gladys
Originally uploaded by interplast.
Here I am pictured with my other favorite, Gladys, who had her cleft lip first repaired by Interplast in 2002. Now her palate has been fixed. In my hands, she flies in the air and is anxious to go home, play with her dolls, and dance to music.

Each of us -- Ecuadorian patient and Interplast team member -- has so much to be thankful for in our own way, each assisted by helping hands in different ways.

Nadia and Angel

Nadia and Angel
Originally uploaded by interplast.
Two of my favorites were in the pediatric ward, Angel Cartuche, 3, and Gladys Gualan, 5. They have been in very good hands. Surgeon Nadia Afridi is pictured here changing Angel's dressings. The two seem as different as Loja and NYC, but maybe not. Angel walked two hours from a northern village, and burned himself playing with a lamp filled with gasoline a year ago. Nadia's family is from Pakistan, raised in Canada, and now newly married, living in NYC/Manhattan. Nadia said she's really admired Angel because he has shown a lot of strength and courage through the operational ordeal. This could describe Nadia as well.

Nadia has been in good hands, too. As a Webster fellow, she learns and operates by working with Dr. Moore and Dr. Gould on the team. "You see one, do one, and teach one", Nadia remarked. "That's the way to learn".

Antonia Lugo

Antonia Lugo
Originally uploaded by interplast.
This is Antonia Lugo, an adorable 11 month-old. It took two and a half hours for the doctors to repair her cleft lip, but everything went well, and she is recovering nicely. She is a doll and lit up the pediatric ward.