Darwin was born on June 26, 2014 in his village of Pamoca in the rural Guatemalan highlands. As is typical in this region of Guatemala, his birth was attended by a midwife, who immediately recognized his cleft lip and palate.
Darwin’s father, Fabian, and his mother, Maria, were very upset. Darwin’s oldest brother, Marvin, had also been born with cleft lip and palate. Then as now, they had very little money. Because Partner for Surgery did not yet exist to serve families like theirs, Marvin’s surgeries had not been completed until he was 13. As a baby, he had tremendous difficulty getting enough to eat. When the time came, he couldn’t speak normally. Additionally, to protect him from teasing, Fabian and Maria rarely let him leave the family home. Marvin’s life was difficult and lonely.
Darwin’s parents didn’t want Darwin to have to endure the difficulties Marvin had. But there was a glimmer of hope: in recent years they had heard about Partner for Surgery and hoped that Darwin could be helped while he was still young.
They learned of Gabriel, a Health Promoter who had helped others in their village. Gabriel visited their home, evaluated Darwin, and enrolled him in the Nutrition Program so he could receive robust nutrition and proper care in preparation for surgery.
After several months of nutrition supplements and monitoring by Gabriel, Darwin received his cleft lip surgery in October of 2014, and received his cleft palate surgery in January of 2014. Darwin will speak and eat normally, and will not be hidden away in the family home as his brother was.
Fabian and Maria see Partner for Surgery as a light that came into their lives, a blessing to their family. They are very grateful that Darwin will have a happy, healthy life.
Partner for Surgery's Infant Nutrition Program for infants born with a cleft lip and palate has been in place for just over five years. Because our program locates infants at birth or very soon thereafter, mothers receive lactation coaching, breast pumps and nutritional guidance while they can still produce milk. For mothers unable to nurse, commercial formula is provided. The story below of Leonel is a wonderful example of a life that was saved in the early days of the program, and an example of how this child can now be of help to the family and live a normal life.
Leonel was born in 2009 with cleft lip and palate to Roselia and Baten, both first time parents at age 17. They were confused and scared and did not know what to do about their son’s condition. All they knew was that they had no money to pay for treatment. Fortunately, the midwife who attended Leonel’s birth knew about Partner for Surgery through the local Health Center. A health promoter was assigned to Leonel and his family to support their journey, beginning with enrollment in the nutrition program.
Leonel did so well in the nutrition program that he was healthy enough to undergo surgery to repair his cleft lip at 5 months. At 18 months, he was ready for cleft palate surgery.
And look at him today at age 5! Thanks to early intervention by Partner for Surgery, he is healthy, strong and quite handsome! He takes great pride in working with his grandfather in the fields, so he can help feed the family.
Leonel’s mother Roselia is very grateful to Partner for Surgery for saving her son’s life and helping her when she so desperately needed it. “Thank you for your help!”
Vidalia was born in July of 2013. She weighed 7 pounds and appeared to be in good health – except she was born with a cleft lip and palate. Her parents Catalina and Hector walked for hours to two different hospitals, both of which told them this was not an urgent case. Because of the family’s extreme poverty, they were referred to a social worker.
When Hector’s family learned that Vidalia was born with cleft lip and palate, they shunned Vidalia and Catalina and told Hector to take his family away “to avoid suffering and shame to the family”. Says Catalina: “In order to have a place to live, we didn’t have enough money for food. Often Hector and I ate once per day, or sometimes skipped a day, so the children could eat. In spite of this, Vidalia lost weight and became malnourished."
“Thanks to God and to the social worker, we learned about Partner for Surgery and beginning in January of 2014 a Health Promoter helped us with milk for my daughter. I don't know what we would have done without them. I have given birth to five children, and three of them have died. Only Vidalia and her 7-year-old brother survive.”
After two months, the Health Promoter became concerned that Vidalia was not gaining weight, and also noticed that the baby sweated excessively. Her parents took Vidalia to a hospital to be examined, and it was discovered that Vidalia suffered from a heart condition. Vidalia was admitted to the hospital to be monitored, and Catalina stayed with her while Hector returned to his community with his son so he could work. Two months later, Vidalia received corrective heart surgery, and in October of 2014, the cardiologist cleared Vidalia for cleft lip surgery. Vidalia is expected to receive her cleft palate surgery in the spring of 2015.
Said Catalina: “Thank God for Partner for Surgery. God is the only one who can repay them for what they have done for my daughter, thank you.”
Gregorio's family lives in a humble home that is typical for his village: a single room with a bed for the entire family, a dining table, and an open fire for cooking. Although electricity is sometimes available, the family rarely uses it since it is so expensive and they have so little income.
When Gregorio was born in April 2013, his parents Sonia and Miguel were heartbroken to learn of his cleft lip and palate. They believed that no one would help them because they had no money. The midwife suggested they seek help from Partner for Surgery.
About a week after Gregorio’s birth, his parents scraped together enough money to travel to the Health Center - 6 hours away. Gregorio weighed less than 5 pounds in spite of being almost 19 inches long - he was severely malnourished and at risk of dying. As the midwife had promised, Partner for Surgery and their local partner ACPC stepped in. For the next 18 months, health promoter Juan Gabriel visited their home to deliver supplies, monitor Gregorio’s growth, and support and educate Gregorio’s parents. Juan Gabriel also escorted the family to appointments to ensure that Gregorio received medical care, immunizations, and supplements, and accompanied the family during their surgical journeys. Gregorio’s parents feel truly blessed to have found Partner for Surgery, since their poverty would have prevented them from receiving help otherwise.
Gregorio received cleft lip surgery in November 2013, speech therapy training in August 2014, and cleft palate surgery in November 2014. Today this handsome young man is full of smiles!
Said Gregorio’s grandfather: "Partner for Surgery has not only been a blessing for my grandson, my son and his wife, but for all of us, his family. With your help my grandson's life has been transformed into joy and blessing, compared to the moment of birth when we all felt desperate and did not know what to do. Thank you, thank you very much.”
Thanks to our generous supporters, from November of 2013 through August of this year, we were able to provide 84 children with surgery to correct cleft lip, and 62 children with surgery to correct cleft palate. Elder was one of those children. Here is his story:
Elder, the youngest of seven brothers, was born on June 12, 2013. His parents brought him to be seen at one of our medical triage missions in January 2014 after learning of the mission via a radio broadcast in their native language, Q´eqchi. Elder’s cleft lip and malnourished state was readily apparent to the medical volunteers, and he was enrolled in the Nutrition program February 18. Elder thrived, and in late April his mother Celia (housewife) and father Francisco (farmer) received the wonderful news that Elder was ready to receive surgery.
Elder received his cleft lip surgery on May 7. Said Elder's father, Francisco: “We are joyful and thankful to the doctors and ACPC for helping our family…we are now going back to our community and they will witness all the support we have received… I expect my children to have opportunities to attend school so they do not suffer as much as we have. “Gracias y Dios los bendiga (thanks and God bless)”.
You are the reason we can transform the lives of Elder and so many other beautiful children. Thank you!
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