Dr. Barrera reflects on Rwanda Plastic Surgery Mission

Rwanda Plastic Surgery Mission

What is the most exciting experience of your year?

San Antonio Plastic Surgeon Dr. José Barrera returned to Rwanda Plastic Surgery Mission with Face the Future Foundation to perform reconstructive plastic surgery on children and adults with facial deformity. Dr. Barrera reflected on his experience in Rwanda at the media training workshop at the 11th International Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery meeting. He was interviewed by Emmy Award winning Today Show host Jane Hanson at the meeting in New York City, NY about his recent humanitarian mission to Rwanda. Dr. Barrera has participated in several humanitarian missions to Haiti, Dominican Republic, Chile, Afghanistan, and Peru. As a craniofacial and facial plastic surgeon with Face the Future Foundation, he has performed numerous cleft lip and palate, orthognathic (jaw surgery), craniofacial reconstruction, and facial trauma surgeries in Kigali, Rwanda in 2013 and 2014. Dr. Barrera hopes to return to Rwanda to continue the vital work necessary to help educate new surgeons and treat trauma and birth defects which are so prevalent there.
Rwanda is commemorating its 20th year anniversary since the genocide which left more than one million lives lost to tribal warfare. The country is still healing from this devastation. Dr. Barrera was honored to perform reconstructive surgery for some of the survivors of the genocide. One particular patient presented with a sunken and deformed face from a gun shot wound which occurred 20 years before during the genocide. Dr. Barrera and Dr. Kofi Boahane from Johns Hopkins performed facial reconstruction surgery to rebuild the orbit and midface by using a fibula free flap to reconstruct the palate defect with skin and muscle and replace the missing bone in the face. The orbital tissues were repositioned. The patient was very grateful that we cared enough to reconstruct an injury that he had suffered with for 20 years. The stigma of war is often reflected in the traumatic facial disposition of patients that wear it. Patients with facial deformities cannot cover the abnormality. In this case, reconstructive surgery not only provided symmetry to this man’s face but also helped to heal his broken spirit.