Heartfelt thanks to Dr. Syuzanna Voskanyan and ARDA!

November 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Post by Eileen Asahi, Trip Co-coordinator


Plasticos Foundation would like to send out our heartfelt thanks to Dr. Syuzanna Voskanyan, our local coordinator for this mission.  With the support of Stan Lazarian’s foundation, ARDA (Armenia Relief & Development Association), Dr. Suzy worked tirelessly to screen patients near and far for our mission.   Givmry, Kharbert and Bethlehem Orphanages, Hrazadan Clinic and Gregor Loosavorich Clinic were some of the many facilities Dr. Suzy worked with to find the children in need of surgery.

In addition to gathering patients, she was responsible to arrange transportation, food and housing as necessary.  Dr. Suzy worked as the Plasticos Local Coordinator with Arabkir Hospital and was with our Plasticos Team the entire trip, from the time we landed at 3am on Thursday, October 24th helping with everything from translating, customs clearance difficulties,  initial screening and hospital activities during surgery week, to helping us get our return bags checked and saying goodbye at Yerevan airport on Sunday, November 3rd.    However, her job has not finished for this mission as she is still working with Dr. Hrachya Arshakyan conducting follow up visits with our patients (dressing removal, post op care, etc.).

Words cannot express our appreciation for all of your hard work and caring, Dr. Suzy!  This trip could not have happened without you.   Sincere thanks from all of the 2013 Plasticos Armenia Team Members!


Reflections on 2013 Armenia Trip

November 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

by Vahe S. Tateosian MD


It’s 3 am local time, and the jet lag has allowed me to reflect quietly, alone, on my thoughts from the past few weeks. Those thoughts which not only formed the past two weeks, but those which had been brewing for much longer. Through years of studying and training, I had wanted to be part of such a cause, but always felt it would be such a different experience contributing once my training had been completed, more as a teacher, rather than a student. However, the truth still stands when we say, the more you learn, the more you realize how little we all know.

What was most memorable, most inspiring and will stay with me the longest are those relationships that were forged within the past ten days. The Plasticos Foundation has allowed for the creation of relationships with our fellow doctors, surgeons, nurses, students, and most of all patients. Those patients that always prove to be our greatest teachers and inspiration. Those that allow us to realize, sometimes much later than our encounter with them, what the purpose is for all of our efforts. Too often, our successes are measured by efficiency…speed. Too often, we don’t realize the impact of even a simple procedure on the lives and our patients and their families. The relationships with our fellow healthcare professionals are meant not only to teach them, but also to teach us. To create a foundation for collaboration and learning by any means we have at our disposal. In such a technologically advanced age, our methods of communication, teaching, interaction and interpersonal relationships seem endless. Yet, we also realize how much we truly take for granted. Many of our first world problems constitute interest rates, traffic jams and status updates. Many third world problems constitute needs such as social services, transportation, basic healthcare and infrastructure. A few of the nurse anesthetists I worked with had been on call, stayed in the hospital 24 hours, and continued to stay and help the following day, well past their shifts, in order to contribute. All with smiles on their faces! Needless to say, many of them commute home on buses for over an hour. We often take for granted the resources and information that is so easily at our disposal, simply a few swipes away on our smart phones. Yet, working with my fellow anesthesiologists from Armenia, I was impressed by their skills and knowledge and overjoyed by their willingness and ideas on continued collaborate.


For me, a first international medical mission, the days in the hospital were full of constant adjustments and considerations. From the equipment used, to the relationship between the nurses and physicians, and their “normal” routine. Thankfully, my fellow anesthesiologist, Armen and I speak the language, but we were given a brief introduction to “informed consent” on our first day in the hospital by one of the anesthesia residents, an astute and well spoken young man. Parents simply want to be assured that their children will be well taken care of, and they put their faith and trust in you, which is both a humbling and inspiring sentiment.

So if you ask me what will I remember most? What has inspired me most? At home I stare at the thousands of lights of the cars ahead of me in traffic on the way to work. In Armenia, our jaws dropped every morning with the views of Ararat on the bus ride to the hospital. The attitudes of the doctors, students and nurses…frustration in their eyes and in their tone, mixed with hope. The conversations with a great new friend about stars and Pluto, while running into the Opera House on my last evening. The ideas exchanged by fellow anesthesiologists and surgeons in the hopes for future endeavors. An evening listening to jazz music with great friends, and now family, after a long day. The stroll in the market on our last day with a new friend, as I reflected on the week’s events. The gentleman I met on the plane back home, who I hope I inspired to contribute to our cause, even if through communication. The children and their parents that had only their words and hugs to express their gratitude. Ayo…Yes…all of that and more.


Plasticos was Featured on Armenian Television

November 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Thursday – October 31st: Thoughts from Armen, our Anethesiologist

October 31, 2013 § Leave a comment


Post by Armen Chalian


Armenians have the most beautiful eyes, expressive and innocent. These children have come from all over the country hoping to change their fate. Little Narine who’s hand and fingers were burned and transformed into a scared ball of flesh, now has an open hand with five fingers liberated from their scared down condition!

Armen G. Chalian, MD 10/29/2013


Every day I am energized by the dedication of the rest of the Plasticos Team. Even after 11 hrs of surgery I am not tired. How could I be? I feed off the energy of each and everyone around me and from the surgical results which have been remarkable to witness!

Armen G. Chalian MD

“Dr Armen as they call me here” 10/30/2013

Thank you Arabkir staff for working side by side with us. Professionally speaking, I enjoyed the exchange of ideas with Khatchik and Aghavni the staff anesthesiologist who are brilliant themselves. They perform miracles every day with their skill and knowledge with limited equipment compared to what I have at me disposal in the United States. I appreciated their dedication to the advancement of our anesthesia profession.

Armen G. Chalian MD 10/31/2013

I love my nurse anesthesia assistants. They try so hard to please and succeed in every way. Unfamiliar with such a system and used to working alone in the United States, I didn’t know how to utilize them until Gayane asked me if I trusted her. After that I realized that they do much more than stock the room with supplies. These young ladies work hard, take the bus to get here everyday, and return home to take care of their families. We salute them!….Dr. Tateosian and I now jokingly agree that anesthesiologists have it made here with all this great help.

Dr. Armen
( as I am called)


October 30: Jed’s Symphony!

October 31, 2013 § Leave a comment



Post by Susan Gertmenian


It’s only Jed’s 3rd day of teaching in Yerevan, and he’s already conducting his orchestra in perfect unison! Beneath the bright glow of 6 surgical lights with a small speaker crooning “I Won’t Go Home Without You…..” softly in the background, three young, skilled Armenian plastic surgeons and residents sway gently above a patient’s badly scared arms and face, simultaneously removing severe burn scars to restore mobility in seven-year-old Narek’s arms & mouth.



Calmly, Jed moves from resident to resident, coordinating their movements, guiding their surgical blades, helping them weave webs of sutures tugged from the eyes of tiny curved needles, smoke from the electric cautery machine drifting in the air. What a performance!

Rich blood, the fluid of life, drenches white surgical sponges, raw tissue gleaming like fresh pomegranate seeds beneath parted pink flesh. No, it’s not disgusting – only a step in the magical waltz of skilled surgeons, who scatter massive clumps of scar tissue to be replaced by perfectly stitched thin lines. Such masters!

Susi Gertmenian

Wednesday – October 30 A letter from Paul

October 31, 2013 § Leave a comment



Post by Paul Quintana

A Letter Home

Well, today is, well,not really sure, what day it is.  The trip here is noted elsewhere but twas long and tiresome.

Spent Sunday in clinic (screening patients).  See elsewhere on blog for details.  As a pediatrician, I examined all of the 100 kids.  Thank goodness the majority did not cry so I did not finish the day deaf.

I was impressed that all of the kids were well dressed, neat & clean.  They were well nourished and happy kids.  I found it interesting the large number of men who smoke in families outside of the USA.  As you know, they are endangering the health of the entire family and promoting similar smoking in their children.  The Armenians I spoke with all seem to accept my advice and criticism and I hope it will make a difference.

But back to the kids.  I subsequently saw the kids who had surgery again in the hospital. I would love to say I communicated very effectively with them and their family by pantomime but in truth, I had wonderful translators at my elbow the entire visit.

As my years advance, I find these routine 10 hour days and the occasional 13 hour day, tiresome.  I just want to put my feet up – all the bad parts fade when Tatevik (15 months old) and I became friends.  She was here for hand surgery to release her left hand and fingers from the severe burn that made it non-functional.  Well, she had a great result of her operation but was not happy.  When I went to see her, she turned to the wall after looking at me accusingly.  I wanted to plead my case and say “Hey, it wasn’t me.”   She wouldn’t listen.  Strange to say that a blue eyed cutie with a bandage on her left hand can both make and break your day.  Glad to say that tomorrow I’ll have another chance to remake a friend.

Enough for now, as I have started, as usual, to ramble.
Paul Quintana, MD

Tuesday – October 29th “I’m melting”

October 31, 2013 § 1 Comment

Post by Irene Landry


Every Plasticos trip involves its own challenges.  One is sterilization of supplies and instruments and each country seems to have a different system.

In the US, steam sterilization is the norm for metal, with instruments wrapped in special wrap, then autoclaved at high temperature with steam under pressure.   After the first day of surgery, we carefully wrapped our instrument sets in the special wrapping only to find the next day, that the wrapper and melted and hardened on the instruments!
We quickly put everything in water and began the arduous task of chipping away the plasticized material from each instrument.  Many of the Armenian nurses came into the instrument room to help us excavate the instruments off the trays, until finally we were able to re-sterilize them by other means and begin surgery.  We have had many strange things happen, but this was definitely was a first!


For this reason,we got a very late start to surgery, the first case didn’t go in until 10am. Normally our day finishes around 8pm but today the surgical teams operated until 10pm!