I had the pleasure of sitting down with Prue Ingram, CEO of Interplast Australia and New Zealand, at the recent 40th Annual ASAPS conference. Interplast is a really amazing charity that many of our awesome Australian plastic surgeons are a part of, and the work they do is life changing. Watch the video of my interview with Prue.
What is Interplast?
Prue Ingram: Interplast is a charity. It’s been around since 1993, and essentially what we do is we send plastic and reconstructive surgeons, anaesthetists, nurses, and allied health staff to Asia Pacific countries to provide surgery and, even more importantly, training for the locals and medical professionals.
What can you do to help Interplast?
So, we’re very lucky in that we’ve got a lot of supporters, particularly through the surgical and medical community, and they volunteer their time, but all the programmes cost money. So while they volunteer their time, we need to cover the costs of the equipment, the supplies. We cover the volunteers’ costs if there is an accommodation. And so we’re always looking for funding.We have more volunteers than we can manage to use. We’ve got more requests from our local partners. But what we’re really looking for is funding so that we can meet those requests.
What different procedures do Interplast perform, and in what countries?
So, we do all types of reconstructive surgery. We work across 17 countries in the Asia Pacific region, and we’re very much driven by those countries, and by the local medical professionals and health departments and governments there. So, we only go where we’re invited, and the sorts of things that we do are very much around reconstructive surgery. So, in some countries, we might do a lot of cleft lip and palates. In every country, we do quite a lot of burn scars, some releasing contractures. There are tumours. There are growths, mastectomies at times, all sorts of different things. But the focus of what we do is very much on improving people’s functional ability so that they might be able to go back to work, go back to school, get into school for the first time. And often, things that we take for granted here are just not available in those countries.
Can you give us an example of your work?
An example of the sort of work that we do, and this is quite an extreme case … there’s a little boy called Roxen who was 6 years old when our team in the Solomon Islands first saw him. He had travelled with his family from one of the northern islands, and that’s quite a distance. That’s usually two or three days by boat to get to the main island of Honiara. He got there and he had one of the widest clefts that our volunteer surgeon … and most complex clefts that he had ever seen. And he had to remove one of his ribs to reconstruct his nose. Now, we’re not talking about a hospital in Australia or New Zealand here. We’re talking about a much more basic hospital without the same sorts of facilities. So that’s quite a complex surgery.
He was … Roxen was his name and is his name. He’s an amazing little boy, and over here when people have surgery they’re pretty sorry for themselves on the first few days. What we notice universally is people are so happy to have had the surgery. The families are just over the moon to see the changes that they never thought were possible for their children or for themselves or if a husband who’s got a deformed hand from burns or something like that. So, the kids are there. They’re smiling. They’re saying thank you. Our kids would be crying and doped up on painkillers. It doesn’t happen. So, it’s very different. The team have now seen Roxen for two years. He came back for a second surgery last year, because we have an annual surgical visit to Solomon Islands, and then came back for a checkup this year. And it’s just wonderful to see the change in him, and to hear that he’s at school, that he’s not being ostracised by the other kids and other people in the community. It’s changed his life, changed his future.
Any final thoughts?
There are so many different stories and so many different ways that futures are changed, whether it’s training for a surgeon in some of the basics of plastic surgery, or whether it’s teaching quite complex skills. But, as I said, there are many many requests that we really can’t respond to and it’s wonderful to have a community of plastic and reconstructive plastic surgeons and nurses behind us. And anything that you can do to help with us would be just wonderful. So I really … to find more about us, go to our website and sign up for our monthly newsletter, and you’ll see some amazing stories and some different ways that you can help.
To read more about Interplast and their life changing work check out the blogs below: