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Kids First, Changing Lives Forever

Mariza Menzioo

Mariza MEnzio

Dr. Roberto Maxwell and Billy Andrews

Ana, mamá de Emily y Lisette Romo

By Jesús Aguado

Querétaro, León, Michoacán, and even San Luis de la Paz have worked to “steal” the pediatric surgeries that Dr Billy Andrews brings to San Miguel de Allende annually through Kids First. However, those cities do not have the magic or the culture and willingness to help that San Miguel possesses.

Dr Roberto Maxwell is the person responsible for the “army” of surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, and volunteers who gather in San Miguel year by year. The team performs pediatric surgeries for children and teenagers under 18 years old. The payment is the smiles the children leave in the offices or the goodbyes that they wave, sometimes even some butterfly kisses.

This year from May 20–27, the Kids First team was in the city and performed 120 surgeries for 59 children from the city, the state, and the Bajío region. Roberto Maxwell told Atención that 249 children were checked, but for various health reasons just 59 were eligible for surgery. Maxwell also showed his delight that for the first time (in 14 years), children from Patronato Pro Niños were sent for a checkup, and 14 received surgeries (all of them free).

Emily, a special case

Emily is a 3-year-old infant. She was born with myelomeningocele—spina bifida—a birth defect in which the backbone and spinal canal do not close before birth. The malformation causes intestinal and urinary problems. In addition, Emily has hydrocephaly. Her feet were twisted, and one of them is bigger than the other.

Philanthropist Lisette Romo talked with Atención about this case. She said that in 2016 she read on a Facebook page—San Miguel de Allende sin Censura—that Ana (Emily’s mother) was asking for diapers for her daughter as well as donations for surgery that would help Emily to walk. Later, Pavel Hernández (Lisette´s friend) won a scooter in a raffle, and he said that he would donate it for a social cause. According to Hernández’s post, the scooter would to be raffled to collect more money for the winner’s cause. Romo contacted Hernández and, with the help of citizens, obtained the scooter.

Sanmiguelense Naomi Lawler, who has been a San Miguel ambassador for more than a decade, contacted Romo and put her in touch with Dr Andrews, who became interested in Emily’s case. This year, Emily finally had surgery on both of her feet. Hip surgery will be performed next year. There is something sure. Emily will be able to walk one day.

Romo assured that the raffle will be held soon, and the money collected will be used for the child’s rehabilitation. “My essence is to help. After all these years I have realized that when the community works as a team, we can make great projects possible.”

Cases like Emily´s are everywhere, across the city, the state, and the country. They can be seen and heard in the halls of the general hospital, the space where the parents or the siblings wait for a big miracle for these little patients.

The Team

Previously, Dr Andrews told Atención that the team was made up of 32 people and it has been growing yearly. “The teams come from 15 different states in the United States,” he said.

Andrews remarked that he feels happy working in San Miguel because his teammates like sanmiguelenses, who are very friendly. He highlighted that they feel safe. “México is like any other country,” he said, referring to the matter of security in town.

The doctors who come to San Miguel do so during their vacation time, and although they only see each other once a year, the work goes smoothly because most of them have been on the team since the beginning, and their only goal is making the children’s lives easier with one or multiple surgeries.

For Dr Andrews, all the surgeries they have performed in Guanajuato are success stories. They know this is true because the doctors receive visits yearly from those who have had a surgery previously. He also receives emails, letters, and hugs from the children who benefited, “and that is the best payment for us,” he finished.

History and experience

Doctors Billy Andrews and Gregory Menzio had worked for several years with an organization called Healing the Children, performing surgeries in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, and Colombia. Years later, when they had their own surgical equipment, they decided to start their own organization, and Kids First emerged. At the beginning they worked in the Dominican Republic, but due to the social conditions and insecurity of the country, they wanted to move the mission elsewhere. Dr Andrews traveled to San Miguel and met Lucha Maxwell, then president of the Centro de Crecimiento, and Roberto Maxwell, among other sanmiguelenses, and they convinced him to move the mission to San Miguel. He visited the city for four more years before making the decision.

The city immediately offered support with translations, transportation, food, lodging, and more. For that reason, they decided to come to San Miguel every year, beginning in 2004. Another plus is that the city is closer to the US border than South American locations, and transportation costs for the surgical materials are lower.


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