The day our volunteers travelled nearly 7,000 miles for and the families may have been waiting years for has finally arrived- our first day of surgeries! One more short interview was held with each parent asking such things as when the child last ate or drank or if they were coughing, and then that final COVID test. Once completed, we moved them one by one into the pre-op area where they were entertained by Soren Jarabelo, the Mission’s Recreation Therapist, using some of the many toys donated by members of our team.

The palates were scheduled first since they can take four or more hours. As can be imagined, when the children were separated from their parents, their tears and emotions were flowing. All of our anesthesiologists took the time necessary to gently console and calm them down before administering the medication required for the procedure.

Once each child was ready and wrapped in the handmade quilts from Wrap-A-Smile, the plastic surgeons and nursing team began working with great precision in the tiny mouths, carefully adjusting tissues and muscles to close up the gap in the roof of the mouth. These surgeries could also include teeth extraction and the case of Isiah, a cleft lip repair

With surgery complete, they were transported to PACU and the parent brought in to sit with their child to witness the miracle of the surgery. Our first mom was so touched when she first saw her baby, she nearly passed out and we had to help her to a chair to recover. Once the children wake up and are cleared by the PACU team, they are sent to recovery ward in the open air gym, where they will remain overnight.

The eleven successful surgeries today mark a significant step towards restoring normalcy and bringing smiles to those who have faced ostracization. The dedication of the entire team to make a difference in the lives of these families is clear, and it’s evident that the team’s efforts go beyond just medical procedures. They are creating positive changes that can indeed be life-changing. We all look forward to returning in the morning to review post-op progress and hopefully send each family home until post clinic next week for the final follow up. Highly recommend this mission to everyone! Saving smiles, changing lives!