US Doctors provide big smile for little girl

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 43            November 7, 2002

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Kenisha with Mrs. Whipps

Last week, a group of US dentists, physicians, nurses and other professionals were in San Pedro providing a free dental clinic to the community. Over the years, the team, known as the Belize Mission Project, has contributed much to this country through their dental services. This past year, they went one step further to make a difference in the life of a special Belize City girl - Kenisha White. Dr. Wil Lala of Caribbean Villas, who works closely with this team of dentists, shared some valuable information regarding the success story that has become Kenisha's life. Excerpts of the following story were taken from the American Weekend edition of the Mt. Vernon Register News and the Centralia Morning Sentinel newspaper.

    Something went wrong very early in Kenisha White's life. Shortly after birth, her upper and lower jaws fused together and she could not open her mouth - not even an inch. The lower jaw barely grew and for many years Kenisha was only able to eat by pushing beans or grains of rice through the gap between her two front teeth. But the problem did not end there, as her arms and legs were not the same length. Other problems in her hips made walking somewhat painful as well.

   Dr. Frank Whipps, a US orthodontist who has been making medical mission trips to Belize for many years, heard about the case and arranged to examine Kenisha. Even before meeting Kenisha, Dr. Whipps and his wife, Bonnie, talked over the situation and imagining the amount of care she would require, decided they would need to take Kenisha to their home in Centralia, Illinois. All the necessary arrangements were taken care of and in August of 2001, Kenisha White, then 10 years old and weighing only 50 pounds, was taken to the US by Mr. and Mrs. Whipps in the hope of changing the life of this young Belizean.

    Once in Centralia, the first thing that the Whipps set about doing was organizing the medical care that Kenisha needed. A Centralia pediatrician, Dr. Matt Stedlin gave her a routine examination. A dentist, Dr. Jess Mikesall, began working on a variety of problems the girl had with her teeth. A local medical facility donated x-rays and Dr. Whipps, himself, decided to do some of the corrective work Kenisha needed. He also contacted an oral surgeon, Dr. Kenneth Rotskoff from nearby St. Louis, Missouri who agreed to help with some of the more expensive surgery. A series of surgeries were needed to free Kenisha's jaw, as well as to give her more of a lower jaw. One of these procedures required that Dr. Rotskoff make a four-inch incision on either side of Kenisha's head and cut the bone between her upper and lower jaw in two. After this procedure was completed, Dr. Rotskoff removed flesh from Kenisha's leg and inserted it in between her upper and lower jaws. Following surgery Kenisha was required to perform seemingly endless exercises (600 times a day) to stretch her mouth using a tongue depressor. Also assisting was the Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital which set up a fund to help pay some of the mounting costs incurred by Kenisha's surgeries. Several Centralia area churches and St. Louis area residents also sent donations after hearing about this particular case on television.

    After being in Centralia for eighteen months, and nine operations later, Kenisha's life and features have changed for the better. She was recently in San Pedro as part of the Belize Mission Project where her "US parents" are volunteers. The San Pedro Sun met Kenisha who was happily assisting the medical team at the Lions Den. Thanks to the vision of Dr. Frank Whipps and Mrs. Whipps, as well as many friends in Centralia and St. Louis, Kenisha is now able to show a bright smile that can light up any room.
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