Bury St Edmunds: Doctor helps children smile

A CONSULTANT anaesthetist at West Suffolk Hospital has returned from his fourth trip aboard to help children with facial deformities to smile again.

Clive Duke, of Little Whelnetham, near Bury St Edmunds, takes annual leave from his role at the hospital to work for Operation Smile – a charity that provides free surgery to repair cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities for children across the globe.

Dr Duke, who has travelled to India, Ghana, Madagascar and most recently the Phillipines to help young people, said he wanted to “give something back”.

He added: “It’s not just a physical incapacity – they have problems eating, they have problems talking. They don’t go to school usually, they’re shunned.”

“It affects their whole life to such a huge degree and so it’s a great thing we can do to operate and give them a smile. It has a huge effect on the child and their family.”


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Dr Duke, who has been based at the Bury St Edmunds hospital since 2004, said in the Philippines he met a 14-year-old child who had not been to school for years because he had been teased about his condition.

In Madagascar he met two teenagers who had walked for four days to get to the operating theatre.

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The consultant, one in 500 to 700 children around the world are born with a cleft palate and that in some Third World countries it costs the average person a year’s wages to pay for corrective surgery.

He added: “Operation Smile takes First World medicine to the Third World. I didn’t want to go out to the Third World and drop my quality or standards of care. I feel hugely supported by the team.”

Dermot O’Riordan, medical director at West Suffolk Hospital, said initiatives such as Operation Smile help broaden staff’s experience and “give them a fantastic opportunity to use their expertise to help others”.

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