Congrats to A/Prof Leo Donnan!

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Associate Professor Donnan with Motaz, Isoa and Thiery.

We were incredibly proud to award Associate Professor Leo Donnan (MBBS FRACS FAOA) with the Pat Weldon Humanitarian Award 2020 at our recent Virtual Gala Ball. 

This annual award recognises an individual or organisation who has gone above and beyond to improve the lives of children in developing countries – whether that be with their work in Australia or overseas.

Associate Professor Donnan is highly regarded and experienced paediatric and adult orthopaedic surgeon. He holds public appointments at Royal Children’s Hospital and private appointments at St Vincent’s Private Hospital.

Leo has a very long and close relationship with Children First Foundation, which goes back to 2007. He has performed over 50 pro bono surgeries on our children in those 13 years and has undertaken some of our most challenging cases. Where other surgeons have said ‘no’ to complex cases, Associate Professor Donnan usually finds a way he can make it work.

Tell us how you first got involved with Children First Foundation …

I was first introduced to the work of Children First Foundation by my friend and mentor, Ian Torode. I had come back from fellowship training and had a particular skill set in deformity correction and limb lengthening. These skills married very well with what the Foundation was trying to do, in helping otherwise well children with musculoskeletal disabilities.

There was a natural attraction to be involved from a compassionate point of view. It was great to have the opportunity to use what I had trained to do for those that had little or no access to a type of life-changing surgical treatment.

However, the operation is only the very beginning for this type of treatment, and it generally requires months and months of care (psychological and physical) post-surgery. It is only with an organisation like Children First Foundation who looks after that extended post-surgical care, that this life-changing surgery and treatment can be achieved properly.

My enthusiasm increased when I discovered what was happening was far more than what was being done surgically. These children and young adults were also given something very special during their time at The Retreat, in the form of education, life skills and improved wellbeing. Not only were they returning home physically better, but as true citizens of the world, with broader perspectives and greater potential than they would have ever achieved if it was not for Children First Foundation.

Finally, from a surgical point of view, the cases put forward to me by the Foundation were characterised by significant challenges, and because I guess that is what I like, it was not long before I said yes! And as they say, the rest is history.

What do you hope that your work with us will achieve? 

That each child or adolescent returns to their home a better person both physically and mentally. I hope each child goes home with a broad attitude to the world and an affection for the people of Australia, who without thought give so that they can have a far better life. I hope that these kids are ambassadors for our country and can potentially move to leadership roles within their own, but at a minimum, my wishes are that they lead healthy, happy and active lives.

We are sure that all the Children First Foundation kids you’ve worked with have all been very special, however, are there any cases that stand out for you?

Over the last 18 months, watching Rachael has been an amazing process. She arrived with what should have been a straightforward plan to perform a procedure of a pelvic support osteotomy for a destroyed hip combined with a deformity correction and limb lengthening. Just before she was due to undergo surgery, she developed an infection in her hip. Two major operations later and appropriate antibiotics we got it under control, but we had to wait another six months before she could undergo her limb salvage surgery.

Despite these setbacks, Rachael remained determined to go ahead. Even though it was a rough road, with the fantastic support of the Children First Foundation staff and volunteers, she got through it all. Although Rachael may well need one further operation to maximise her function, she is now well and truly rehabilitating. During this time, it has been incredible to witness how she has shone in her studies and how her natural talent in art has continued to develop. Rachael has revealed herself as a truly delightful young lady.

With Rachael.

The Pat Weldon Humanitarian Award is awarded in the memory of Children First Foundation friend and former colleague, Pat Weldon, who sadly passed away in 2017.  Pat began volunteering with Children First Foundation in 2004 and went on to become the Retreat Manager in 2011. Over the years, Pat and Leo built a great friendship, making this award even more special.

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