Sanford Children’s, Fresh Start partner with smiles in mind

Screenings available for children to receive reconstructive surgery at no cost

Three photos of a baby girl growing up with smaller and smaller port wine stain birthmarks on her face.

Part of offering world-class health care is knowing who to partner with.

Sanford Children’s and Fresh Start Surgical Gifts are teaming up in the mission to change children’s lives.

More than a smile

Michelle Pius is the chief development officer of Fresh Start Surgical Gifts. The San Diego, California based non-profit organization “offers reconstructive and plastic surgery at no cost to children who are uninsured, underinsured, or who don’t qualify for a state funded program,” she said.

“We cover things that insurance is now considering cosmetic. (Things) like unsightly birthmarks, port wine stains. Sometimes something as simple as kids’ ears are sticking out at an awkward angle to be considered cosmetic, when in fact it’s very painful for kids when they’re wearing glasses or when they’re sleeping,” she added.

Many insurance companies don’t offer coverage for cosmetic procedures. This often places the financial burden squarely on the shoulders of families.

Pius said the nonprofit acts as a safety net for children and families.

“Coming out of the pandemic, families are just getting back to work across the country after having been laid off. Even though they’re back at work and have insurance, they may not have the seven to ten thousand dollars that’s needed to cover the deductible for their child’s medical care.”

Pius and others at Fresh Start say they don’t measure success in surgery alone. Patient confidence post-surgery is critical to them.

“We want you to feel good about yourself and hold your head up high when you leave the house,” said Pius.

Helping as many patients as possible

Both Sanford Children’s and Fresh Start had each other on their radars. Sanford Health, home of the only standalone children’s hospital in South Dakota, is always looking to further its care to children, said Joseph Segeleon, M.D., a pediatric intensivist and vice president – medical officer at Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Dr. Segeleon said partnering with Fresh Start is just one more example of this mission lived out, saying, “regardless of whether they’re a Sanford patient or not, we’re trying to cast a broad net so that we may help these individuals take advantage of the Fresh Start surgical system.”

“We are hoping to find these individuals, who for whatever reason, whether it’s poor access to health care or financial issues, help for them and their families,” he said.

Dr. Segeleon said the partnership started with Jessica Aguilar, the system executive director of women’s, children’s, and cancer care at Sanford Health.

Aguilar met with Pius in late 2019 while at a conference in San Diego. The two discussed the possibility of a partnership. Throughout the past two and a half years, both sides decided to team up.

“We saw an opportunity to bring them to Sanford and have individual conversations with families who might be appropriate for their services,” said Aguilar.

Easy to find and access

When planning this crossover between the two organizations, organizers had accessibility in mind.

“We want to make the screenings available for as many patients as possible. We’ll be offering free screenings and informational sessions throughout our footprint,” Aguilar said. “Families who may qualify for Fresh Start’s services in Minnesota, North and South Dakota will have the opportunity to learn more about the program as we bring sessions to our various locations.”

However, patients and families do not need to wait for screening informational sessions to determine if they may qualify for services through this partnership. They can also reach out at any time to learn more about the program.

Learn more about Fresh Start at Sanford Health online or call 605-312-6064.

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Posted In Children's, Community, General Surgery, Here for all. Here for good.