Foreign doctors conducting free surgeries for Vietnamese children

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Doctors conducting surgery on a child with genital defects at the Vinmec Hospital in Hanoi on June 19

A team of two Italian surgeons and one American are conducting free surgeries for poor Vietnamese children with genital defects.

Italian surgeons Roberto De Castro and Aurelie Chiappinelli and Vietnamese-American surgeon Tue Dinh have performed the surgeries on seven children at the Vinmec Hospital in Hanoi since June 13.

Eight other children are expected to have their surgeries this week under the Thien Nhan & Friends program organized by the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that funds surgeries for poor Vietnamese children with severe genital birth defects or who have suffered traumatic injuries to their genitals.

The surgical team will move to Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City to examine more children from June 23-28.

This is the fifth medical mission organized by the Thien Nhan & Friends program, which was originally founded to help Thien Nhan, a baby boy whose genitals were severely damaged when he was abandoned in a jungle at birth and severely mauled by wild animals in 2006.

Over the past three years, De Castro and Dinh have operated on 60 Vietnamese children and examined 215 others.

Dr. Chiappinelli joined the team last year to reconstruct the genitals of 14 young boys and six girls in Vietnam.

Vinmec Hospital, the Da Nang Hospital for Women and Children, and HCMC's Children Hospital 2 have all provided assistants, surgery rooms and facilities to the program.

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The surgeries rebuild genitals to appear normal; allow children to urinate normally and live without pain or shame, AIP Foundation said in a statement on Tuesday.

"This is a rare pediatric medical condition, and traditionally the medical solution has been to transform little boys into girls, usually with tragic results," the AIP president Greig Craft said.

"With the new DeCastro Phalloplasty method, child urology has been revolutionized and the support from the local community has been fantastic, with families now more confident and open about their child's situation, which helps other families to also come forward," he said.

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