Fresh Start, Sanford branch out to bring smiles overseas

Charitable surgery partnership expands to Sanford World Clinic's global sites

Fresh Start, Sanford branch out to bring smiles overseas

The partnership between Fresh Start Surgical Gifts and Sanford Health has families smiling around the world.

The tag team of health care providers just completed the first procedure on a global scale.

Fresh Start & Sanford Health 101

Fresh Start and Sanford Health joined together in the summer of 2022.

Amy Baete, the director of Sanford Children’s Health Initiatives, said the partnership “allows children the opportunity to receive corrective surgery for procedures that may be considered cosmetic and therefore, not covered by an insurance plan.

“The program is not only for kids born with birth defects like a cleft palate,” she said. “For example, a child with a disfigurement like a port wine stain or birthmark may be dealing with the pressures of being teased for their appearance.

“Fresh Start gives those children the same life-changing opportunity to get care that they might not otherwise be able to access,” said Baete.

Screenings to help patients

As part of the partnership, patient screenings to identify if a patient could qualify for Fresh Start’s services were held both in person and virtually, in June and October.

Karoliina Slack is the executive director for Sanford World Clinic. She said the partnership between Sanford Health and Fresh Start branched out to include Sanford World Clinic, in hopes of helping patients globally, as well as in the United States.

“We made a trip to San Diego to see Fresh Start, where this amazing program is headquartered, in action. We thought it would be a great opportunity for our world clinic sites to refer patients over to Fresh Start,” she said.

Who can apply: Learn more about Fresh Start and Sanford Health

Johna Kern, the director of global operations at Sanford World Clinic, said the partnership was a natural fit.

“Fresh Start fits very well into our mission and what we’re all about. There is a definite alignment,” she said.

“We’re very fortunate in a lot of cases in the United States with health care that’s available and physicians being able to volunteer their time for programs like Fresh Start. A lot of the international sites, that’s not possible. I think we are very lucky to be able to partner with Fresh Start and extend this program to our partners and their communities globally,” said Kern.

Meet Julian Gonsalez

Through the patient screening process, Julian Gonsalez and his mother Nazaret, who live in Alajeula, Costa Rica, were connected with Sanford World Clinic and Fresh Start.

Julian was born with a cleft palate. To have the corrective procedure done, Nazaret realized they’d need help financially.

“We weren’t able to afford it,” she said through an interpreter. “The pediatrician who we worked with at Hospital Metropolitano recommended Fresh Start and Sanford Health and helped us send information and photos over.”

No charge to patients

Every procedure done by Fresh Start is completely free. Once a patient meets the criteria of the organization, they don’t have to pay a dime.

Including travel, which is crucial because each procedure is done in San Diego, California.

For many families, paying to get there wouldn’t be possible, much less paying for the procedure. Fresh Start helped Nazaret attain the right travel documents and booked their flights.

Nazaret sent her son’s information and photos over in September of 2022.

By November, the first procedure was done.

‘I have no words’

Nazaret said she’s “eternally grateful” to Fresh Start and Sanford World Clinic.

“I have no words. This has forever impacted Julian’s life. It’s truly a blessing from God. It is an indescribable blessing. I just can’t say ‘thank you’ enough,” she said through joyous tears.

Julian finished his first procedure, and he has another one scheduled around May of 2023.

Nazaret said if there’s anyone in a similar situation, she couldn’t recommend Fresh Start more.

“I’m so, so pleased with the foundation. It was very overwhelming and scary at first, and there was a lot of stress. But they made it easier than I could’ve ever predicted,” she said.

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Posted In Children's, Community, General Surgery, World Clinic