LWB Community Blog

2018 Cleft Medical Exchange: Day Five

Day Five in Lanzhou has come to a close, with three operating rooms going nonstop.  It’s clear that the cross-country cooperation between the two teams has really hit its stride, and we’ve got a really smooth system in place now between the OR, recovery rooms, and ward.

Here’s a quick update of some of the children you’ve already been introduced to.

Little Toni is healing well, and his dad and grandma were all smiles on morning rounds today. They are so relieved that his surgery is now behind him.

Chubby-cheeked Stella had some breathing issues during the night, but after some nebulizing treatments she was feeling a little bit better.

Kylee and her mom were still asleep when our team arrived for morning rounds. Chinese hospitals are often extremely crowded, with 3-4 families sharing one room. Parents and grandparents must all sleep together with their child in a single bed, and yet even without access to showers or a cafeteria, the mood of everyone here is still so happy. Kylee and her mom were given the green light to return home once they make their long-distance travel arrangements.

Geriant has decided Dr. Tollefson is a pretty good playmate each morning. He’s had such a smooth recovery from his palate repair and will be able to discharge soon. Above each child’s bed we always hang a printed photo with their Chinese and Western names to reduce confusion, and Geriant has been so excited all week about having a photo of himself hanging on the hospital wall.

Jameson had a bit of a tough night refusing to eat, but this morning he was wide awake and looking completely handsome. His family said they are overjoyed to know his future will now be bright.

Little Wyatt is eating well now after his palate surgery and was riding on his grandma’s back all day in her traditional baby carrier.  They are very anxious to get back home.

Aubrey’s bilateral lip repair is also healing well. She will be able to go home tomorrow. On morning rounds today, her father was holding her in his lap smiling ear to ear. He kept saying, “My daughter is so beautiful now. She’s just so beautiful now.”

Today we want to share a few more stories with you about some of the children your support is helping.

We know you’ll fall in love with 7-month-old Taylor, the first child of a lovely family who farms wheat. When Taylor was born, she really struggled to feed, which of course would scare any mother. Having a cleft lip can make it difficult for a baby to form a proper seal around a nipple, making drinking from a breast or bottle extremely challenging. Even the most loved babies can become failure-to-thrive if they can’t form a good seal. We of course have seen this countless times over the years in orphanage care, especially when babies are prop fed.

Taylor’s mom, however, knew she needed immediate help for her daughter, so they actually came to live in Lanzhou to learn how to feed Taylor properly. We think you can tell from her photos that mom did an A+ job!  She’s the very picture of health now.

Taylor sailed through her bilateral repair and was delivered safely back to her mom’s arms after surgery.

Grandma was very emotional seeing her grandchild’s repair and was surprised at how quickly Taylor was able to be up and about again. We’ve assured her those little nose plugs will be out as soon as possible!

Baby Theodore was the youngest patient for our team, at just three months of age. His family are migrant workers who rent a small room in the city and then return home to the countryside for planting and harvesting.

Theodore’s grandmother was also born with cleft lip which was never surgically corrected. They explained that back then families would simply use glutinous rice to stick the cleft lip together.

Theodore’s parents live in the same rural region as Camila’s parents, near the ancient Maiji caves. After Camila’s surgery on Day One, her parents sent a photo to Theodore’s mom and dad saying, “Come right away so your son can be healed, too!”

After surgery, his father told our team, “One day changed one life.”

Missy is a 2-year-old little girl who was born with a very complicated craniofacial need, which also included cleft lip and palate. The surgeons at Gansu Provincial had repaired her cleft lip many months ago, and her mother had returned hoping more could be done for her daughter.

Missy’s family are vegetable farmers, and the superstitions in their rural region regarding those born with special needs are pervasive. Some have even accused the little girl of being a witch because of her facial differences. Sadly our team had to explain that Missy’s medical condition is extremely complicated, involving her entire skull. Complex (and often risky) neurosurgeries would need to be done. Her mother told us she loves her daughter completely and takes her with her wherever she goes, but her heart is heavy thinking about how the world will treat her child as she grows.

Dr. Liu, the head of the Chinese team, performed palate surgery for Missy, and we all wish there was a magic answer to protecting her sweet heart from hurtful words in the future.

We also want to share a bit about an adorable baby named May. And yes she wins best hat of the week.

May is too young to know it yet, but her family has suffered greatly. Her grandfather lost his fingers working in a brick factory. Then when May was born, her mom was so overcome with depression that she hasn’t spoken since.  Since they’ve no money to see a doctor, the grandparents have been unable to help May’s mom become well again.  May’s father was a construction worker, but he fell from a third story building and suffered a severe head injury. He is now blind and still loses consciousness at times.  May’s grandparents support the entire family by farming corn and tomatoes in the rural mountains and said they struggle greatly to make ends meet.

May’s grandparents learned about LWB from a countryside doctor and traveled over 8 hours with the hope of seeing our team. They told us May is a very smart baby and seems to know when others are sad or hurting.  The grandmother became very emotional and said, “May is the one bright hope in our lives.”

Dr. Tolan did an incredible repair for baby May, to match the incredible love her grandparents pour over her. She was resting comfortably in their arms when we left the hospital this evening.

Tomorrow is the last day in Lanzhou for this international team, and we just can’t thank you enough for the encouragement and well wishes you have sent our way.  Some of us will also be visiting the local orphanage, where LWB has foster care.  We look forward to sharing some final photos with you then, so please stay tuned.  Until then…..Wan An and Goodnight.




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  • Patt Kelsey says:

    More beautiful children with beautiful stories and families. Little May and her family’s story tugged at my heart the most! So much suffering and pain in one liitle family. Praising God for LWB and the Cleft teams, for the beautiful way these little ones and their families are being blessed with a brighter, healthier future.