Dr. McConnell's Medical Mission Trip to India

March 28, 2017

Dr. Jeffrey McConnell recently returned from his yearly medical mission trip to Kolkata, India with Operation Straight Spine. Operation Straight Spine is a medical mission project that was developed to provide spinal surgery services to the indigent and poor living in a developing country. The project was started in 2005 by Dr. McConnell and a former colleague from Dr. McConnell’s second fellowship, Dr. Ujjwal K Debnath. “We shared a vision to provide spinal surgery to those who could not afford, or do not have access to such services,” Dr. McConnell said.
 
Each year a surgical team with members from the United States and the United Kingdom, travel to Kolkata, India and perform complex spinal surgery procedures on children and adults with a variety of spinal disorders. The surgeries are performed at the Ramakrishna Mission Hospital, a charity hospital in Kolkata.
 
This year’s trip included a total of twelve surgeries; five patients were children and seven were adults. “Many of these deformities will worsen with time and lead to physical disability, which creates a significant social and economic burden to the patient and their families. Our goal is to prevent further deformity and physical disability in these patients which will allow them the opportunity to live healthy and productive lives. This will enable them to care for themselves and other family members,” Dr. McConnell elaborated.
 
When asked why he holds Operation Straight Spine and its mission so close to his heart, Dr. McConnell responded, “I have been extremely fortunate in my career and I have always wanted to give something back to the global community. My contribution is going to India to perform surgery for those who cannot otherwise afford, or have access to, modern spinal surgery. It is extremely rewarding to be able to do this kind of work. Perhaps the biggest reason we keep going back is a simple smile on the faces of the patients we treat.”
 

Like most years, this year’s trip had a few unique surgical cases and patients. One was 18-month-old Arannya. Arannya was diagnosed with congenital scoliosis at just 3 months old. Dr. Arannya did amazingly well after surgery, a testament to his young age, and by the 4th postoperative day was going on walks in the courtyard, smiling, carried in his mother’s arms.

In addition to Arannya, and perhaps the most challenging case of 2017 was
Shruti. At a young age, Shruti was diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome – a complex genetic disorder affecting approximately one in every 15,000-30,000 individuals. The disorder results in short stature, disorders of metabolism, cognitive disabilities and behavioral problems. Shruti originally presented to the OSS team in 2016 for consideration of corrective surgery for her thoracic scoliosis, however her diabetes was newly diagnosed and poorly controlled. The team thought it best to delay her surgery until their return trip in 2017 so that her diabetes could be brought under better control. By 2017 her left thoracic scoliosis curvature had progressed to 92 degrees.


Read more about Dr. McConnell and his trip on his personal website. You can also read a detailed report of this year’s Operation Straight Spine trip and their day by day activities here.   


 
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