When Martinez resident and Medical College of Georgia professor Yong D. Park stepped off a plane in Uganda in April, it doubled the number of pediatric neurologists in the east African nation.
Dr. Park, who is the director of the Pediatric Epilepsy Center at MCG Children's Medical Center, donated 10 days of his time and expertise to help improve the quality of life for children stricken with malaria-induced hydrocephalus.
The trip was arranged by CURE International, which is, according to its Web site, a Christian-based medical mission focused on curing hydrocephalus, spina bifida and other debilitating spinal and orthopedic conditions in developing nations.
Hydrocephalus is the excessive buildup of cerebral spinal fluid on the brain, according to the National Institutes of Health. Symptoms in small children include extreme swelling of the head, seizures and vomiting.
The condition is rare in the United States, and children with hydrocephalus in this country are generally born that way, Park said. In Uganda, he said, it is much more common and generally caused by mosquitoes carrying malaria.
Park got involved with CURE after a conference in California. He said he had looked for a way to use his specialty in missionary work.
"I think it is the answer to my prayers, to use my talent in other areas," he said.
Park worked with the lone native neurosurgeon and a team of medical students and doctors from West Virginia University and Great Britain at the CURE International Children's Hospital of Uganda. The team helped perform surgeries on 10 children to relieve cranial pressure.
In addition to hydrocephalus being a debilitating condition, the seizures that come with it are seen by the natives as a sign of demonic possession, Park said. Children with the condition are isolated and have few opportunities, he said.
As part of the trip, the doctors helped spread their knowledge to the native Ugandan hospital staff.
"They are really devoted to taking care of their own people," he said.
Park's assistance to children in Uganda didn't end when he returned to the United States. Park and CURE are working toward establishing a high-speed Internet link to MCG so the doctor can assist with treating hydrocephalic children half a world away.
He said he already has commitments from an MCG neurosurgeon and a nurse to return to Uganda with him later this year. Park said he also hopes to gain permission from the state of Georgia to send a surplus electroencephalograph to the Ugandan hospital to test brain activity.
For more information about CURE International or to donate money, visit its Web site at www.curenetcomm.org.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.