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Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate

by Partner for Surgery
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Surgery for Guatemalans with Cleft Lip and Palate
Tucuru, Guatemala, near where Susana lives
Tucuru, Guatemala, near where Susana lives

When a child is born in the United States with a cleft lip their lip is almost always repaired before their first birthday. In countries such as Guatemala this is rarely the case. Almost all of our patients are from remote rural areas far from the big city or even a paved road. Finding them and persuading them to leave the security of home is difficult at best. Don Heebner, one of our volunteers and Board member has photographed over one hundred children many of whom are infants. So he was surprised when he saw Susana for the first time. Susana was holding a towel over her face and Don had to check her folder to see why she was a patient in this surgical mission, which was focused on children. When she pulled the towel away it was clear why. How was it possible that she had not been repaired in 18 years?

Susana was born the youngest of three children, and her mother was not very involved with her children. Her father was even less involved. When it looked like Susana’s mother and father would abandon her, Susana’s grandfather and grandmother stepped forward and said they would raise Susana. Susana had a loving home with her grandparents, but when she started school the taunting and bullying began. Susana would come home in tears from school every day until finally in the third grade her grandparents let her drop out of school. She was homebound until her grandparents heard of a Guatemalan charity called Partner for Surgery that matched children with surgical needs with incoming surgical teams from the United States and Canada who volunteered their skills for free, and would repair Susana for free.

When our team saw Susana there was no way we were going to let her go home without our best effort to make her look like the pretty girl she was meant to be. She was presented with a small mirror after surgery which she used to look at herself for ten minutes at a time. We asked if she wanted her towel back, and she said no, “I do not need it any more“.

Cleft lip patients are held overnight and released the next day. When Don heard Susana was ready to go home he grabbed her camera and met her as she walked out of the hospital, and stepped into the sunlight on a bright sunny afternoon and appeared as a normal 18 year old girl for the first time in her life.

Eighteen years is a long time to wait , but thanks to you and to two amazing charities Partner for Surgery, and Smiles for Guatemala, Susana no longer has to wait in her grandparents house.

Besides Susana, Partner for Surgery and our many teams of volunteers have completed 246 surgeries in the first quarter of 2019 and examined 480 patients.

You are making a difference. Rural Guatemalan families are some of the most impoverished in Central America and your help improves more than their health. Children are better able to go to school, adults can work to support their families and contribute to the local economy. The whole community is uplifted.

Thank you. We could not have achieved these results without you.

Susana and her grandfather
Susana and her grandfather
Susana before surgery
Susana before surgery
Susana after surgery
Susana after surgery

The work Partner for Surgery conducts in Guatemala is the result of many people's contributions: donors like you, medical and non-medical volunteers, our local staff and Health Promoters, and the communities where we work. 

In 2018, more than 300 children born with a cleft lip/palate received nutritional and surgical care as part of Partner for Surgery's program. 

With your support, our Health Promoters visited rural communities in Guatemala and quickly identified children born with cleft lip/palate. They placed the children in our nutritional program and started to visit the family to provide support. They gave each mother a breast pump and a bottle designed specially for feeding babies with cleft lip/palate. Mothers also received general education on how to keep their baby healthy until they were ready for surgery. 

Partner for Surgery has the most comprehensive program for babies who are born with cleft lip/palate in the rural communities of Guatemala. Through our immediate attention to nutrition, we are able to ensure the babies can successfully endure surgery as soon as possible. 

While the babies wait for surgery over the first few months of their lives, our Health Promoters will visit their families regularly and monitor the baby's development. Once they have had surgery, we continue to visit them to make sure they are recovering from surgery well.

327 children had cleft lip/palate surgery in 2018 as part of our program. 

Last October, Frank Peterson, founder of Partner for Surgery, and I, visited some of the families of babies who had been in our program. The moms were so happy to show us how well their babies were doing. They walked a long way carrying the children in their arms to let us see them up close. It was a very touching moment for us and a huge boost to our motivation to continue this work.

Thank you for your help! We could not have done it without you. 

Fuego destroyed their home; your donation helped bring back happiness

We last met Hernan and his family soon after the Fuego volcano disaster when they were recovering from the trauma, and his three daughters were being treated for burns received during the eruption. One of the girls, Tatiana, will have scars on her face. With the help of your donation, the girls were seen by Dr. Lourdes Santizo at the Children’s Burn Clinic at Roosevelt Hospital in Guatemala City, Guatemala

But life post-Fuego is drastically different. They’ve abandoned their home, as due to the lava and debris, the Guatemalan government deemed it unfit to live in. The shelters established for Fuego victims were overpopulated and unable to accommodate Herman and his family,.
Eventually they were able to find a new home and have begun to rebuild their lives.

Still, Hernan’s three daughters are recovering well and continue to see Dr. Santizo for their follow-up appointments.
Their therapy will continue for the foreseeable future.

“My girls were affected in many ways due to the volcano; they cry or have nightmares,”Hernan said. “It is normal since they experienced something so traumatic."

Thanks to your support, Partner for Surgery and ACPC have been able to provide Hernan’s daughters with physical therapy and the support of a psychologist.

Hernan says he can’t thank enough those who donated.

“You have brought happiness into this home. We could not have done it without your support.”

As many of you know, Fuego suddenly erupted in June and sent hot lava into numerous villages. Hundreds were killed and many more are still missing. Among the survivors were many burned children, and Partner for Surgery immediately sent out an appeal for funds to help in their post-operative recovery. The generous response has already allowed us to give a $5,000 check to the burn surgeon who has collaborated with us for many years at the Children’s Burn Clinic in Guatemala City. We are so thankful for your generosity.

Two weeks after Fuego erupted, we held a rural medical mission, where a photographer volunteered and contributed this photo and story. Thank you, Dorothy!

On the second day of the mission, Aurelio, the nurse who leads our Cleft Infant Nutrition Program, took us to visit four-year-old Sabdy Antonio Cruz Toma who had both life-changing surgery to correct a cleft lip and palate. Sabdy’s story had a sad beginning. When he was born, his mother was so ashamed of his appearance that she hid him when neighbors stopped by to celebrate the birth. She soon fell into a deep depression.

But Aurelio offered hope. Sabdy could be a candidate for corrective surgery, if he could gain enough weight to qualify. So he enrolled Sabdy in PfS’s Infant Nutrition Program. Sabdy was fed with special formula in a bottle designed to enable him to suckle given his condition. Sabdy thrived.

He had his lip surgery in 2014 at 8 months old, and his palate surgery in 2015. Both times our health promoter accompanied him to Guatemala City and stayed with him during recovery. Today Sabdy is a healthy pre-schooler who amazes his teachers and his mother with his curiosity and intelligence. His mother was so animated and happy as she told us how well Sabdy is doing in school, and how much he loves it, often coming home with new words or ideas to share with the family.

When Sabdy grows up, he says he wants to be a policeman.

In gratitude of your generosity,

Frank Peterson, Founder

We are SO CLOSE to completely funding our GlobalGiving project goal, and we want to thank you for your donations and especially those who commit to remembering Partner for Surgery each month. Every single dollar donated has a direct impact, and we couldn’t provide medical missions without you.

Here’s what’s happened since we last got in touch

March in the United States is National Nutrition Month, and basic nutrition is a life or death matter for the more than 20,000 Guatemalan babies born with cleft lip/palate each year. Infants born with this condition makes breastfeeding nearly impossible and with families unable to afford the formula, the results are tragic. Read how our Targeted Infant Nutrition Program (TINP) helps babies thrive. 

Here’s how you were crucial to helping these children

Your donation of $25 gave a stressed mother a breast pump and a special nursing bottle to feed her baby.

Those who donated $35 provided one infant suffering from a cleft lip or palate a full month’s of nutrition.

Babies who could have their cleft lip/palate corrected by Partner for Surgery medical missions don't because their mothers can't afford to accompany them. Your donation of $50 paid for the lodging of a family awaiting surgery.

Through this unique program, we accomplish four major goals by preventing:

  1. Malnutrition, so the child will thrive and qualify for surgery;
  2. Speech impediment, by providing cleft palate surgery before the child reaches the age of one and a half;
  3. Ostracization with the community of family and child
  4. Preventing ostracization encourages education, especially for girls like Delia.

Here’s how you changed Delia's life

Delia's cleft lip, palate, and resulting speech impediment left her so ashamed by her appearance and exhausted from the bullying, that she dropped out of school. Please remember our missions not only provide medical treatment, but we provide children like Delia with a future they didn't think was possible.

Here's how you impacted the lives of rural Guatemalan women

In March, we also celebrated International Women’s Day, and in addition to positively impacting Delia’s life, your donations led to the screening of 2,994 women in rural Guatemala for cervical cancer in just the last year.

Of those women, 75 received life-saving treatment, and 730 women were evaluated for breast cancer.

These treatments are direct impacts from your donations!

Here’s what’s happening next

Next month, from May 9th to 13th, GlobalGiving is running their Mother's Day donation campaign. New recurring donations up to $200 per donor during this week will get an additional 100% match on their initial donation as long as it remains active for a minimum of four payments. Help us spread the word! Please invite your friends to follow Partner for Surgery on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, so we can share positive stories and smiling faces. 

We can’t thank you enough, but luckily for us, this smiling face is going to give us a hand.

With gratitude from Partner for Surgery
With gratitude from Partner for Surgery

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Organization Information

Partner for Surgery

Location: McLean, VA - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @pfsguatemala
Project Leader:
Frank Peterson
Partner for Surgery
McLean, VA United States
$25,892 raised of $25,000 goal
248 donations
$0 to go
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