A leading plastic surgeon is to fulfil the pledge he made to return to the Middle East to treat the child victims of the Syrian civil war.
Ali Juma, an expert in face and breast surgery and body contouring at Spire Murrayfield Hospital on the Wirral, will fly out to the Lebanon in January with a crack team of surgeons and nurses from an American medical charity.
The mercy mission comes 12 months after the father of two, who lives in south Liverpool, first joined a team from Dallas-based LEAP Global Missions to help injured survivors of the appalling carnage in Syria.
Ali, 54, who was born in Baghdad in Iraq and spent part of his childhood in Beirut in the Lebanon and in Abu Dhabi, has over 24 years’ experience in plastic surgery and in the management of trauma and reconstruction.
He spent eight days in Jordan last January on a mercy mission to rebuild the shattered bodies and lives of Syrian refugees.
He was so affected by the experience that he vowed to return and this time he and his colleagues are heading for Tripoli in the Lebanon where they will be based at the Safad Hospital.
Ali, who has the full backing of his wife and two young children, said: “The reaction last year was not only very humbling, but also made you appreciate the gift of life and what we have in the UK.
“The patients treated came from refugee camps with terrible injuries and they are very grateful and thankful to us and we just felt we had to go back.
“They are smiling at you but you can see the sadness in their eyes and it’s heartbreaking but your brain just goes into a different mode because you have to help them.
“The years of training kick in and you have your professional head on but what we did and the time we spent wasn’t long enough and in the future I would like to go back at least twice a year because we need to achieve more.
“We need to visit more frequently and work with the local surgeons and medical teams and train them so there is a continuity of care.
The team will expect to see about 50 patients, mainly children, and perform surgery on up to 30.
Ali is an Arabic speaker and he added: “Speaking the language and the dialect means I can converse directly to patients and staff which can build up trust at an early stage which is vital in achieving more over the short period of time we are there. Achieving trust in our work is very important for patient care.
“The team we worked with in Jordan was very efficient and very skilled and it was a pleasure to work with them at Al Maqasad hospital in Amman, and I’m hoping it will be the same in Tripoli.
“We will probably be treating patients who have been injured at Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria and the range of injuries includes everything from blast, shrapnel and bullet wounds to scalds and burns.
“The conditions in the refugee camps mean people are often cooking on stoves on the ground and little children fall over pans of boiling water and get badly scalded.
“Another advantage of going more than once a year is that I will be able to see the results of the treatment on patients, which is a very important aspect of continuity of care in addition to training the teams over there.
“I would also like to set up Skype or similar interactive links so we can liaise more closely and more often with the local surgeons and staff and while I’m currently working with LEAP and will continue to do so as LEAP is a well organised and effective organisation in providing the support for the patients and the participants under a great leadership.
“I am also happy to work with other organisations including the United Nations in the future to be able to reach more of the people who need help.”
He will fly out to Beirut on January 7, taking with him vital supplies from Spire Murrayfield Hospital and reuniting with the team he worked with in Jordan, which includes plastic surgeon Bob Anderson, anaesthetist Kevin Healy and LEAP Director of missions Ryan Snyder Thompson from the USA.
Also from the UK will be trainee plastic surgeon Sarah Al-Himdani, originally from Iraq, and Samantha Jones, from Worcester, a highly skilled paramedic.
Hospital Director Julie Watkinson said: “We’re very proud that one of our team here at Spire is again flying out to the Middle East to use his fantastic skills to help the victims of this dreadful conflict.
“Ali and the rest of the LEAP team are making a huge difference to the lives of the people whom they treat and we’re delighted to be able to support him with his work for this fantastic charity.”
For more information about LEAP Global Missions go to www.leapmissions.org/ and for more about Spire Murrayfield Hospital, Wirral, go to www.spirehealthcare.com/spire-murrayfield-hospital-wirral/