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A chance for a healthy life

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Imagine that your baby has a rare condition, and you must send her half a world away for surgery. She will be gone for months. And, you can't go with her.

This is what faced the Pelaez family of Balao, Ecuador, when Virtua/duPont urologist, Mark Zaontz, MD, discovered that their daughter, Camilita, had a rare bladder condition. He diagnosed Camilita's condition during a medical mission in Ecuador last year. With the help of Healing the Children, Dr. Zaontz arranged for Camilita to travel to the United States to undergo surgery at Virtua West Jersey Hospital Voorhees.

Many hands at work
A heartfelt thank you
Saying goodbye

Many hands at work
Katie and Chip Schindler of Medford Lakes volunteered to care for Camilita after hearing about her from a friend who works for Healing the Children, which is a non-profit organization that brings donated medical care to needy children both in the United States and abroad. Along with their three children, the Schindlers loving cared for Camilta during her four-month stay. "Camilita is such a sweet, beautiful baby. We loved having her in our home," says Katie Schindler. But the Schindlers credit Camilita's successful surgery and recovery to the staff at Virtua Voorhees.

On December 30, 2002, Camilita had corrective surgery; the physicians and Virtua waived all fees associated with the surgery, testing and post-operative care. Dr. Zaontz and Suken A. Shah, MD, a Virtua/duPont pediatric orthopaedic surgeon, worked together for more than eight hours to correct Camilita's bladder exstrophy. This is a rare congenital condition that occurs when the bladder and part of the abdomen do not form correctly. It leaves the bladder and associated internal organs open to the air. The condition also causes genital malformations as well as separation of the pelvic bones, which makes the feet point outward.

As soon as Camilita was in recovery, Katie Schindler called Camilita's parents in Ecuador to give them the good news. "Virtua paid for the phone call and found a nurse who spoke Spanish to translate for us," she says. "Camilita's mother cried. She was just so happy to hear her daughter had made it through the surgery safely."

A heartfelt thank you
A few days after Camilita was released from the hospital, Schindler sent a thank-you note to Adrienne Kirby, PhD, CHE, vice president and chief operating officer at Virtua Voorhees. She wrote: "The treatment Camilita (and I) received from your staff far exceeded my expectations. Everyone was so much more than kind, helpful, courteous and professional."

Schindler credits Dr. Zaontz for his caring touch: "Dr. Zaontz is the kind of physician any parents would want to care for their sick child. His dedication to Camilita was evident in his twice-daily visits, great rapport with the nurses and gentle demeanor."

Schindler specifically noted the compassionate nursing care Camilita received: "The nurses and multi-skilled technicians, specifically Marjory Brown, RN, MSN; Mary Layton, RN; Gail Simpson, RN; and Deya Soltis, MST… were so wonderful to this child and me. All in all, I felt that Camilita's care was top notch… your entire staff genuinely cared about this child."

Saying goodbye
It was a sad day for the Schindler family when they sent Camilita home to the family that missed her dearly. But it was a comfort to know that they made a difference to Camilita and to her family.