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Medical missions to Ecuador

Mar. 24, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Maria Carmen Riddel, a retired professor of Spanish at Marshall University will be returning to the school for a special presentation on her work with the Ecuadent Foundation, non-profit organization dedicated to providing dental and medical care to impoverished children in Ecuador.

Riddel worked at Marshall as a professor of Spanish for nearly 20 years. She is also a former Chair of the Department of Modern Languages.

Ecuadent was founded by Tammy Fesche in 1990.

The demonstration will take place at 7 p.m. March 27, in the Shawkey Dining Room at the Memorial Student Center. It is open to all students and the general public.

"Ecuadent started as strictly as a dental project, but they discovered over time that a lot of children had mouth problems like cleft palates and lips," Riddel said. "So it was expanded to a medical mission. They now send surgeons along with the dentists. We operated on 35 children last year, and 43 children in 2013. The dentists see much more than the surgeons do. According to the doctors, the mouth problems are mainly genetic. For some reason they are more common within children of Asian and Native American ancestors. A possible lack of oxygen during the pregnancy due to altitude and diet can also be factors."

Riddel became involved in Ecuadent's medical missions following her retirement from Marshall.

"They go in February in every year," she said. "I started going because my sister-in-law, Marilyn Riddel was a nurse in the operating room. She called me up and told me that the organization didn't have enough interpreters. I started going last year, and I went again this year. I plan to continue going as long as I have the strength. It is very physically demanding, as you have to work 12 hours a day for eight or nine days. Each year we go to Salinas, which is along the beach and relatively close to the city of Guayaquil. We Are hosted by the Ecuadorian Navy and stay in a naval base. They usually give us room in one of our local hospitals. We are all volunteers who pay our own way. Ecuadent covers our housing and two meals a day."

Riddel was unsure when she first decided to go.

"I was very nervous the first time I went down there because I'm from Madrid. Spain and Latin America are very far from each other," she said. "I had absolutely no problem understanding them and they had no problem understanding me. My duties there consist of accompanying the doctors when they interview the parents. I also help the anesthesiologists. I need to know from the parents if a child can be put under anesthesia. When the doctors make their rounds in the morning, I need to translate to the parents of the children who have been operated on. Because the surgery is minor some of the children can leave on the same day. If a child is put under anesthesia they have to stay in the hospital over night."

For more information on Ecuadent, go online at http://ecuadent.org .

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