LWB Community Blog

2018 Cleft Medical Exchange: Day Four

Day Four of our 2018 Cleft Medical Exchange is now a wrap, and nine more children received surgery today.  The team is feeling very tired, but everyone is determined to see the rest of the children healed who qualified for surgery.

One interesting fact about China that you might not know is that the entire country only has one set time despite spanning five vast, geographical time zones. Every province follows the time of the national government in Beijing, which means our team in western Gansu gets to the hospital and begins operating while it’s still completely dark.  Here’s our view as we arrive each day.

We’re so happy to report that all fifteen children who had surgery yesterday did well through the night. Here are a few of their photos taken during rounds today.





Today we want to introduce you to more of the beautiful children who arrived this week for surgeries. Six-month-old Carter is from a town in southeast Gansu that was devastated by a massive earthquake several years ago. He lives on a small farm with his parents, grandparents, and his great-grandmother, so you can imagine just how much attention this smiley little boy receives at home.

The superstitions surrounding cleft are very strong in the rural parts of China, and so the family has faced a lot of shame when they’ve taken Carter outside to farm. We’re so thankful they heard about LWB from friends, as we know his surgery will change Carter’s life in an enormous way.

Carter’s mom has already asked if we’re coming back next year so her little boy can have his palate closed. She told Dr. Tolan, “We’ll be waiting!” with a huge smile.

Toni is another little boy whose family traveled a long distance to see our team. His family’s story is a very common one in China, as families from the remote countryside often must separate in order to find the funds to live.

Toni’s father does construction jobs almost 1,700 miles from home, all the way on the east coast of China. He’s only able to come home to see his family once a year. Toni’s big sister is six years old, and since there’s not a school in their remote village, his mom has to rent a small room in the city for the two of them, working hard to pay the tuition fees.

With both parents and his big sister being away, Toni lives with his grandmother and great-grandfather out in the countryside. Toni’s father traveled back to Gansu so he could be with his son during surgery and told us his only wish is a better life for his children. After seeing his son come safely out of the OR, he kept saying how smart and handsome his son is. We just love proud daddies!

Faye is a gorgeous little girl who, like Toni, is eight months old. She is one of three daughters in a farming family. To make additional money to support his little girls, Faye’s father makes noodles in Beijing, so he rarely gets to return home to Gansu. He traveled 1,500 km to be with his daughter during surgery.

Even before Dr. Tollefson took Faye back for her operation, her parents were asking when we could come back to repair her palate. They are extremely worried about how they will afford additional surgeries for their daughter in the future. Her parents were overjoyed to see how lovely their daughter looked when she came out of the OR and were both laughing and talking at the same time saying how beautiful she is.

And how about little Jameson?  Could he be any more adorable?

His family are from the Hui minority and live on the Tibetan plateau, traveling the long distance to Lanzhou to see our team.

Jameson’s father struggles to make ends meet by picking up junk and trash to sell. Before their son was born, both parents worked in a plastics factory, but the father had an accident and lost two fingers on his right hand. Things became even more difficult for the family when the dad was then diagnosed with TB. They had a previous opportunity for their son to have surgery in Beijing, but they were unable to come up with the money to pay for their travel there. The mom said she was afraid she’d get lost in such a big city as she wouldn’t be able to read the words on signs.

Jameson’s mom told us they feel so fortunate to be here, and she wishes for her son’s surgery to be successful so he’ll have a happy life. She wants to do whatever is necessary to get her son help due to beliefs in the Tibetan culture that cleft is a curse. His mom said that many people in their region won’t take their babies born with cleft outside, or even seek help, as they’re told it occurred because the parents or grandparents did bad things. She went on to say that she personally doesn’t believe in this superstition. She loves her son completely and takes him with her everywhere. Go, mom!

Dr. Tolan did a beautiful repair for Jameson, and we know they’ll return home with pride.

Also on the surgery schedule today was baby Stella, with her oh-so-kissable cheeks.  They’re enough to make Marlon Brando scream, “STELLA!!!!!! ”

Stella’s parents are vegetable farmers, growing corn and tomatoes. Stella was born in a small country hospital about three hours from Lanzhou, and when the doctors saw her cleft they told her parents that their only hope for a cleft repair was the city. They’re so happy our team chose Lanzhou for this year’s surgery trip and wish for their daughter to grow up strong and beautiful.  (We will share Stella’s post-op photos tomorrow).

You might have noticed in some of the photos that family members serve as IV poles in the hospital.

Since the OR and recovery rooms in many Chinese hospitals are often on separate floors, families must carry their children to and from surgery instead of using a wheeled gurney.

There was a very emotional walk through the hallways today for one precious family. Yesterday we told you about two-year-old Wyatt, whose family are Tibetan sheep farmers. They arrived days early hoping for a spot on the surgery schedule, and the tender devotion of his grandparents has captivated our team.

During Wyatt’s palate surgery today, he had a difficult time coming out of anesthesia and needed oxygen, which kept him with our PACU team longer than expected. His grandfather and uncle paced with worry, and the relief they felt when nurse Lori finally came out to hand him over was palpable.

Wyatt’s uncle carried him carefully through the hallways, to deliver him back to a very anxious grandma. It’s been said that “Grandchildren are the sunshine of one’s soul,” and the gentle and patient love this family continually shows to little Wyatt has been a real light during an often hectic week.

Safely back in grandma’s arms

We’ll leave you today with a few more photos from the OR because, well….they’re just cool.

We can definitely feel your good wishes all the way to China, so thank you for your enormous support.

Here’s one more gorgeous photo of Lian to show what you’ve made possible. Until tomorrow!

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  • Patt Kelsey says:

    These stories and photos are just beautiful!! Tears of joy, and prayers for each child and their families as they heal and return to their homes.