Greetings from lovely, colorful Antigua on the last day of our 2022 Guatemala Cleft Trip.
It is always bittersweet to say a final goodbye to the families we have come to know and care about so deeply, but it was time for them to begin their long journeys back to their villages.
When a shy young woman came into the hospital courtyard carrying a bundled baby, we thought we were going to have one final surgery case.
One of our team members went to peek at the infant and realized it was a little girl born with bilateral cleft. The mom told us she had come all the way down from the mountainside because someone had told her the hospital could help her firstborn get medical care.
We hurried as quickly as we could to get labs and a physical exam done on the seven-month-old. Sadly, this little girl had a respiratory illness, so it would not have been safe to do surgery. Everyone was disappointed, but we quickly agreed that she’ll be first on our schedule on our next Guatemala cleft trip!
Saying Goodbye at the end of our Guatemala Cleft Trip
This morning, we made our final round in the San Pedro hospital ward. Some of the moms asked if they could get one last photo of their child following their cleft repair surgery. It has been humbling to hear “Muchas gracias” at every bedside we visit from families who are so thankful that their children’s repairs are finally done.
Yesterday, our team performed nine surgeries, with six of those being lip repairs. On our Day Five blog, you met little Brandon whose mother had remained inside her home with him because her village wouldn’t accept her little boy’s special need. Today Brandon’s mom was full of smiles holding her son, knowing she can proudly return home with him.
Just look at her handsome baby boy today!
Brandon is the most contented little one and is not afraid of strangers, so we of course had to get in our last baby-holding time.
We also checked on little Cristel, who had palate surgery the day before. This gorgeous girl was already giving some small smiles to our team. It’s incredible how quickly babies and children can bounce back from their operations!
Here are just a few of the other babies who had lip repairs yesterday. Maybelyn and Gerardo were still sleeping in the morning, but beautiful Brenda was wide awake for the team.
Then it was time to say goodbye to three of the unforgettable families we featured on our blog this week. All of them have truly touched our hearts.
Alan and his family
Alan’s family was the first up. You may remember that this baby boy arrived at the hospital with his mom, aunt, and uncle, all of whom were born cleft-affected like him. Our team was able to provide repair surgeries to all four members of his family!
Baby Alan needed the tape on his cheeks removed by Dr. Ness, which we’ll just say he wasn’t very excited about.
Just look at this sweet little boy now!
Alan’s entire family (including his grandma, who cared for all four members of her family following their surgeries) gathered for a photo, which was pretty incredible to see.
Dr. Tolan explained that a painful recovery is expected for teens and adults having palate repairs. It will most likely take teenagers Mayco and Juana an entire week to feel relief, so understandably they are still not ready to smile. But they loved seeing their new appearances on our phones.
Alan’s mom, Lecia, is very happy with her lip revision as well. We will definitely share a photo on our social media once they are back home and feeling better. Right now, we wish them the speediest recovery possible and a safe journey home.
It was also time to say goodbye to sweet Lea and her devoted father, whom you met on our Day Five blog. We are thankful she could finally receive the epilepsy medication she needed to stop her daily seizures and allow her operation to take place. Lea’s father never dreamed that his daughter would be able to have the surgery she needed and could not stop saying thank you. We let him know we plan to return to Guatemala for another cleft mission and hope we can repair Lea’s palate then.
Before we left the hospital for the final time, we had one last little girl we needed to see: Yari, the child with the complex bilateral lip who had been turned away from so many prior missions (see our Day One blog). Since Yari had nose stents placed on the day of her operation, she and her father had to return so that the doctors could remove her stents.
Little Yari is so tiny and so very brave. She lay quietly on the bed while the doctors began the small procedure and only let out a few quiet cries at the end.
Soon Yari was back up in the arms of her daddy, which is definitely her favorite place to be. Dad was able to soothe her quickly while we assured her we were finally ALL DONE.
We know you’ll agree that little Yari looks absolutely beautiful. What an incredible transformation! Once again, her dad’s smiling eyes say it all.
Thank You For Making our Guatemala Cleft Trip Possible
Words are not enough to fully convey our thanks to everyone who played a part in our Guatemala cleft trip.
We’re so very grateful to the hospital staff who welcomed us so warmly, as well as to the local health promotors who travel for days to ensure children with cleft receive the help they deserve.
We greatly appreciate our partner on this Guatemala cleft trip, Compañero Para Cirugía (ACPC).
We thank the wonderful travel team who gave their time and talents to help cleft-affected children in Guatemala.
And from the bottom of our hearts, we thank the donors who funded all of the surgeries and made these life-changing repairs possible.
Our volunteers back home are working hard on the before and after photos of the children, and we’ll share those very soon.
Until then, never forget that this world is filled with so much goodness when people come together to help one another. This special week in Guatemala showed us all again that regardless of country or location…the language of love still prevails.
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