Providing free plastic surgery

As part of a specialist medical team working for a UK charity, I travelled to rural Pakistan every year for over a decade to operate on babies, children and young adults born with cleft lip and palate.

Helping children with birth defects

Cleft lip and palate, where either the lip or palate or both don't join up properly, can affect feeding, speech and hearing as well as appearance. In the UK we operate on babies with this condition in the first few months of life.

Sharing techniques

It has been very rewarding to be able to share surgical techniques with local surgeons - not to mention a challenge to work in operating theatres with rudimentary facilities and regular power cuts.

Transforming faces and futures

In parts of Pakistan, lack of medical resources means many people with cleft lip and palate would never have the opportunity for surgery. The social stigma means they may be kept away from school and their job and marriage prospects may be severely affected.

Operating round the clock

During each two-week trip, to areas as diverse as the flat rice-growing region of the Punjab to the mountainous area around Gilgit and Skardu at the base of K2, we were able to treat up to 70 young people.

Bringing hope to families

It has been a privilege to be able to help treat people whose dignity and stoicism I found profoundly humbling. Sadly, political instability in Pakistan has prevented missions in recent years.