Dr. Vecchione was thrilled to be a part of the team who helped to repair Blessing Makwera’s face after a landmine accident in Zimbabwe. Please click on the video below to find out more about Blessing’s amazing journey.
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Doctor fixes faces, mends lives
Scripps Mercy outreach team brings surgical skills to Mexico
Dr. Thomas Vecchione has been practicing medicine since 1974. He is on the staff of Scripps Mercy Hospital and has a private plastic-surgery practice where he performs everything from tummy tucks to hand-trauma surgery.
The list of the procedures he can do, the places he has worked and the boards he serves on is long and impressive, but the explanation for why he travels to Mexico to fix cleft lips and palates for free is short and simple.
“It’s the best thing I do with my life,” Vecchione, 71, said. “This is the one thing I enjoy the most.”
Vecchione is a founding member of the Mercy Outreach Surgical Team, which has provided free reconstructive surgeries for Mexico’s neediest children since 1987. Between the programs in Tijuana and Central Mexico, the M.O.S.T. teams have made 65 outreach trips. Vecchione has been on 52 of them.
During the Mexico treks, a 45- to 50-member team of plastic surgeons, general surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and other medical personnel correct cleft lips and palates, fix missing ears and crossed eyes, and even operate to remove extra fingers and toes.
All team-members volunteer their time and usually cover a portion of their expenses. To help pay for the costs of supplies, medications and some travel, the organization is holding its annual “M.O.S.T. Mariachi Festival” fundraiser on Saturday at the Joe & Vi Jacobs Center in Fairmont Village.
Fixing a cleft palate can take 2½ to 3 hours, while removing an extra digit can be done in 20 to 30 minutes. But there is no time limit on the results, which is just one of the reasons Vecchione is in this for the long haul.
“When you see a 12-year-old girl with a wide-open cleft lip, that shouldn’t be that way,” Vecchione said during an interview at the Scripps Mercy Surgery Pavilion in Hillcrest. “And if you don’t fix it, she could spend the rest of her life hiding in a backroom somewhere. If we can fix it, we need to do that.”
The volunteer-driven organization was started by Pat Robinson and Judy Hames. The two Mercy Hospital nurses had been volunteering with surgical teams in Mexico and wanted to bring their colleagues into the feel-good fold.
Having spent time performing free surgeries in Calexico with a group from UC San Diego, Vecchione was an easy sell, as were fellow longtime M.O.S.T. doctors Lawrence McCarthy (also a plastic surgeon) and anesthesiologist Doug Arbon, both of whom are still M.O.S.T. regulars.
The Mexico program kicked off in the spring of 1989, and teams have made it down at least once a year ever since. The men and women of M.O.S.T. have conducted more than 7,000 surgeries in Central Mexico, along with more than 3,000 procedures at the Hospital Ingles in Tijuana and at Mercy Hospital itself. When the team goes to the town of Irapuato next month, Vecchione will be going with them.
“It just feels so good to do it. When you get a smile from one child or one mother, it’s worth it. It’s better than money. We all feel that way. That’s why we keep going back.”
One of the more memorable smiles belongs to Adriana Robles. In 1993, Robles was brought to a M.O.S.T. program in Zacatecas, where Vecchione operated on her cleft lip. The team brought her to Mercy Hospital a few months later so he could fix her cleft palate. Later, Robles and her mother immigrated to the U.S. to join Robles’ father, and when she turned 13, Vecchione fixed her nose.
Now, Robles is a 22-year-old Mira Costa College student who is hoping to be a nurse. The career is no coincidence.
“I see Dr. Vecchione as a doctor, but I also see him as a role model,” said Robles, who lives in Vista and is still in touch. “He makes so many life-changing opportunities for so many people, and that is something I hope I can do in the future as well. My story is just a little glimpse of what these doctors do, and if I can be just a little piece of that, it would be amazing.”
For Vecchione, the most wonderful thing about Robles’ story is that it is has such a familiar ring to it. It is the story of M.O.S.T., and he never gets tired of hearing it.
“So many of these kids, they’re in school and they’re studying different things, and it is so great to see that,” Vecchione said. “Other kids can be cruel when they see something they don’t understand, so the best thing we do is put them on a more even playing field. They are growing up poor, so they are already at the end of the line, so if you can help them, it makes a huge difference.”
PH levels describe how acidic or alkaline something is. A pH of 0 is acidic while a pH of 14 is alkaline. A pH of 7 is neutral.
Our bodies thrive at a neutral, slightly alkaline pH typically between 7.35 – 7.45, however, so many of the foods and beverages we consume are highly acidic including processed foods, animal protein, and coffee.
Here are some of our favorite alkalizing foods…
– Red Bell Pepper
Introducing our Summer Skin Series… each week we will provide you with natural solutions to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. This week we are talking Lycopene!
Lycopene is a carotenoid found in many fruits and vegetables. It has been proven to protect against sun damage, both short and long term. Not only has Lycopene been proven to provide a natural barrier agains sunburn (up to 33%), but it has also been shown to protect against skin damage and sun-induced skin aging.
Make sure to load up on Lycopene rich foods such as tomatoes, watermelon, papaya, carrots, and mango during the summer months to give yourself an extra boost of protection!
Who doesn’t want to sport tighter brighter skin for the summer? It’s time to say hello to vitamin C.
Vitamin C in the form of L-ascorbic acid is easily absorbed by the skin and packs some major beauty benefits such as brightening the skin tone, inhibiting melanin production, and lightening hyper-pigmentation. It can also restore moisture balance to the skin and boost collagen synthesis, firming the skin and preventing fine lines and wrinkles. Furthermore, vitamin C provides natural protection against both UVA and UVB rays, making summer the perfect time to start your regimen.
We love Obagi Professional-C Serum because it has been proven to have superior absorption into the epidermis and dermis of the skin, allowing you to soak up all of the beautiful benefits.
Summer is officially here! It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and bask in the sun all day. Though the sun provides us with Vitamin D and can be great for the soul… it can wreak havoc on our skin. Wrinkles, premature aging, and an increased risk of skin cancer are just a few of the things that can be associated with too much sun exposure.
Stay smart and safe this summer by covering up with a broad spectrum UVA / UVB sun protectant such as Skin Medica’s Daily Physical Defense SPF 30+. This product is appropriate for all skin types including sensitive and post-procedure skin. It contains green tea leaf extract, a natural antioxidant that is rich in polyphenols as well as caffeine which helps prevent free radical damage.
The key to sun protection is to re-apply often rather than lathering on SPF 80. Research has shown that higher SPFs don’t necessarily provide extra protection, but are filled with unnecessary chemicals which may do more harm than good. Stick with a high quality sunscreen rather than just a high number of SPF, re-apply often , and have fun in the sun.
Are you looking for a lift but not quite willing to go under the knife? Juvederm has just released the first FDA approved filler to not only smooth lines and wrinkles, but add volume to the cheek area.
As we age, we lose collagen. This results in a lack of volume and a “sagging” look to the skin. Lack of volume is one of the key indicators of age. Many opt for a face lift to remove excess skin and diminish the look of an aging face, however, some may feel that this is too extreme.
Juvederm Voluma XC is a hyaluronic acid based injectable gel that adds volume and a lift to the face, specifically the cheek area. The results can last for up to 2 years and the side effects are minimal and can include swelling, tenderness, and slight bruising. Another benefit of Voluma is that the downtime after your procedure is minimal. You will see results right away and resume normal activities in just 24 hours. Contact our office to learn more about this exciting new option.
The human body is made up of 70% water. It is so important to stay hydrated so that we can function at our best. While drinking water is the number one way to stay hydrated, it’s also important to fill up on foods with a high water content. Not only will they keep you hydrated, but foods high in water also keep you fuller, longer. Here are some of our favorite water-rich foods…
3. Baby Carrots