Salvador, Brazil — Two years ago, eight-year-old Taina Dos Santos was a shy girl. Hiding her mouth from strangers and even her family. She would go to school, but was constantly made fun of and teased. When her siblings started to be made fun of for Taina’s cleft lip and palate by their classmates too, it only made it harder for Taina and her family.
Taina was born with a severe cleft lip and palate. She had trouble eating and speaking properly. She relied upon her family for compassion and support when she was tormented by the outside world. Before her mother brought her to Smile Train Partner, Fundacion Pequeno Principe, she avoided catching her reflection in a mirror at all costs: ashamed at her birth defect that separated her from her schoolmates.
Tania immediately after her cleft lip surgery
All of that changed on a fateful April day in 2009, when Dr. Geza Laszlo Urmenyi repaired her cleft lip free of charge thanks to Smile Train donors, as her mother Cirlene explained.
The surgeries were a victory for me. My dream since Taina was born has been these surgeries. My daughter and I faced many difficulties to finally find cleft services. All of my children were disturbed at school. After Taina’s first surgery, it didn’t happen anymore and they could study in peace.”
Tania just prior to her cleft palate operation, two years after her cleft lip surgery
Cirlene, was unable to bring Taina back to repair her cleft palate until recently, but Taina’s surgery and progress has been followed closely by family and friends who have seen a metamorphosis in their little girl that they never thought was possible.
“Before Taina didn’t look herself in the mirror. Today she is different, she is proud and likes to use lipstick like her classmates. All of my friends and neighbors in the countryside followed Taina’s treatment and got very happy with the result. I cried a lot when I saw my daughter’s operation, but this time, they were tears of joy.”
On behalf of Taina and her family, thank you Dr. Urmenyi, your staff, and everyone who has made Taina’s transformation possible.