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first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsThey live in the Gabriel House orphanage south of Ensenada, a Christian nonprofit funded for 14 years by private donations. Kim latched on to The Baja Project for Crippled Children in Mexicali, where American podiatrists have volunteered to provide medical and surgical care for more than 27,000 Mexican babies and children since 1976. Doctors have performed more than 1,800 operations at the clinic, funded by private and corporate donations. Surgeries that would cost more than $20,000 in the United States run about $500 across the border, they say. The group has agreed to treat the four boys referred by Kim. Podiatrists had planned to examine the boys this weekend and tentatively planned foot surgeries the next week if needed, but the exams have been postponed until summer because timely procedures needed by babies already on the clinic’s roster filled the schedule and recovery in summer’s swelter is hindered by an immobile cast, said Naleen Prasad, chief resident for the project and a resident at City of Angels Medical Center in Los Angeles. Patients older than 6 often require a lot of corrective work, she said. Prasad said the four boys will be on the priority list in August or September. But surgeries are only the beginning. “The support people that will be involved need to be educated as to the commitment of the follow-up and care of these children so they can have as perfect an outcome as possible,” said Dr. Carl Wagreich, co-director of the project since its inception. SANTA CLARITA – Months after a Santa Clarita doctor traveled to a Mexican orphanage to examine disabled children and young adults, he plans to return with a group of surgeons he enlisted to treat the youngsters. Pediatrician Peter Kim was determined to help several boys, including Jose, a teen whose clubfeet left him scooting along on the ground, propelled by his hands. “We are excited about helping them out … those who never walked before … who are crawling on the floor grunting. I can’t see them doing that the rest of their lives,” Kim said. “They have their own feet and legs and nobody took care of that for (14) years.” The patients include three brothers born with cerebral palsy and deformed legs and feet. Lacking birth certificates, their ages are approximate. Jose, about 14, and Alejandro, about 11, also have clubfeet; Antonio, about 9, has excessively short tendons. Teddy, about 6, has clubfeet and a very small body with a normal-sized head. An American couple who live near the orphanage and help out there will drive the boys and a physical therapist the five hours to the Mexicali clinic – at least once every two weeks – as the casts are shaped and replaced. Tatiana and Walt Eckstein began making the 600-mile roundtrip from their five-bedroom Palmdale home to the orphanage once a month with a church group in June 2004. After making a “soul connection” with a boy who was beaten and burned by cigarettes, they were hooked. The time between trips shortened to every two weeks, then every weekend – for almost seven months. In May 2005 they moved to their two-room house with a stove in the hall because there is no kitchen. “Our hearts had been captured by these children,” Walt said. “Hearing the laughter and seeing the joy on these children’s faces pays it all back.” Eckstein recalled the day Jose greeted him after he returned from a trip. “He threw himself up (on me), grasped me around the waist, hugged me tight and stayed for 15 seconds,” Walt said, of the ground-based teen. “I cried. These boys don’t have much, but they have a lot of love and laughter to give, they exude love and joy. We’re inspired by it all the time.” Eckstein, in his 70s, writes grants for the nonprofit orphanage and tunes pianos in the United States to help pay the couples’ bills. In June, he plans to launch a Christian fellowship in the vicinity and serve as its pastor, performing English-language services. The weekend before Christmas, Kim, his wife Esther, and about two dozen members of Grace Baptist Church in Saugus made a two-day pilgrimage to two towns in Baja California to deliver gifts, perform Christmas programs, complete light repairs and provide medical services. At the orphanage, a home for severely disabled children and young adults, Kim encountered babies, children and young adults who have cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation or are HIV-positive. About 45 residents live there now. In September, the Kims flew to Houston to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. The clinic’s Wagreich, based in Torrance, has spent the last quarter-century helping people on their own turf. “We’re not there for any other reason than to make a difference in the lives of people who could not get care any other way – it has nothing to do with immigration or the current state of affairs,” he said. judy.orourke@dailynews.com (661) 257-5255160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img


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