LWB Community Blog

Day Five of the 2015 Cleft Medical Exchange


Today was an extremely long day for the team, with the surgeons operating into the evening hours.

CME2015KenzieDr. Tolan and his daughter Kenzie in the OR

Early morning rounds began the day, and all of the kids who have had surgery so far were doing well. Baby Abe was sitting happily on his nanny’s lap, and everyone thought his repair looked amazing.

CME2015Abepostop Baby Abe

Andy even had a little smile for our team today after his palate surgery. His family is so appreciative that his operation could be done as they hope he can now develop normal speech. This adorable little guy is certainly adored.

CME2015Andy2Andy after palate surgery

Samuel was still not feeling well after his combined lip and palate surgery the day before. He was lying in bed quietly and still doesn’t feel like eating or drinking anything. We sure wish there was a magic way he didn’t have to go through the recovery period. Isn’t he so very handsome, though?


Samuel’s uncle and father have been very uncomfortable accepting any additional help from us on this trip. We always get extra hotel rooms for the rural families to stay in while their kids are in the hospital, but they said they couldn’t accept any more from us. Instead, both insisted on taking turns sleeping next to Samuel’s bed. While they definitely aren’t getting much rest, we know that since Samuel doesn’t speak Mandarin it must be very comforting to have his family close by.

Today one of our directors asked for their transportation receipts so we could reimburse them for their travel from the Tibetan plateau to Kaifeng. Normally when we give travel funds to the caregivers or families, we always require them to sign their names on a formal receipt. Both Samuel’s uncle and father told us they had never had an opportunity to learn to read or write, and so they were unable to sign.  They asked if a fingerprint could be used instead, and of course we assured them that was fine. Samuel’s father said he was going to do everything possible to make sure his four children somehow get an education so they can all learn to read someday.  What an incredibly brave father and uncle to make this long journey to help little Samuel when they have never traveled outside of their Tibetan village before.

CME2015KeaneGrandmaKeane and his grandma

Baby Keane looked great on morning rounds. He was nice and comfortable in the arms of his grandma, who is oh-so-proud of her beautiful grandson.

CME2015Keanepostop2Baby Keane

Travis and Peter both looked wonderful today as well. Travis is still getting some IV antibiotics for his chest infection. Many of the kids on the ward today were coughing and sounding raspy.



Both boys are now cleared to eat soft foods like yogurt, and they waited very patiently for each to get their spoonfuls.


Little Isabella was feeling well enough to have some soft foods as well today. She has the most devoted parents who both sat in the bed with her to make sure she felt nice and safe.

CME2015IsabellaParentsIsabella and her parents


Josiah continues to recover from his complex bilateral repair. He and his young nanny were sleeping soundly together in the same bed when our team arrived. We loved this sweet image of them together.

CME2015JosiahNannyJosiah and his nanny

Little Delia also has been recovering beautifully and was able to play with our team members today. She is so bright and copies everything our volunteers do! She has very limited speech due to her wide cleft lip and open palate, but she kept trying to repeat words today. She is just so sweet and happy. We know you will agree that her transformation is just amazing (even though we loved her wide, happy smile before as well!)

CME2015Deliapostop2Delia post-op

Following morning rounds, the surgeries got underway. We are so blessed to be working with such incredible doctors and nurses from both China and the US. Each and every child is treated with such compassion, and over the last three years of working at Kaifeng Children’s Hospital, really deep friendships have been made.



First up for Dr. Tollefson was six-year-old Spencer, AKA Mr. Personality.

During morning rounds, the doctors told Spencer that he would soon be going into surgery, and Dr. Tolan did one extra special “high five” with him when he said he was ready.


His surgery went very smoothly, and he was sleeping comfortably later in the day. And yes, check out those eyelashes!

CME2015SpencerSleepingSpencer sleeping peacefully

Madison Claire also had her palate surgery done today. Before surgery, her grandfather was singing softly to her to keep her relaxed and happy. He is actually her primary caregiver, and the bond between them is very deep.


When she was finally taken to the OR, her grandpa went and stood right outside the surgery room doors. Every time the door would open or close, he would anxiously ask for news. He told one of our team members that his heart had gone back into surgery with hers, which of course made us all get a little weepy!

CME2015MadisonClairepostopSafely back on grandpa’s lap

Liane was the third palate case of the day. She was not a happy camper when it came time to put on her hospital gown (can you blame her?), but she came through the operation very well. She was back in grandma’s arms very soon after surgery.

CME2015LianeRecoveryLiane in the recovery room

CME2015LianepostopBack safely with NaiNai (her grandma)

It was then time for Billy’s case to begin. As we have mentioned earlier, we knew his surgery would require both surgeons in the OR. When it was time for him to go downstairs to the operating area, he was waving to everyone when he left the room. Understandably when he got down to the pre-op area, he got very nervous and began to cry a bit.

Dr. Kathy Clinch is one of the anesthesiologists on this trip, and just like in past years, she has been doing everything possible to make the kids feel comfortable and secure in the OR. Because of Billy’s facial difference, the anesthesia mask didn’t fit over his face correctly, and so Dr. Clinch began cradling Billy in her arms while singing to him. She used her hand to try and cover both sides of the mask as best as she could, so that the anesthesia could be breathed in and he could gently fall asleep.


CME2015BillyanesthesiaDr. Clinch singing to Billy as he goes under

Once the operation got underway, the surgeons determined that there is actually a 1.5 inch difference in Billy’s jaw. His lower jaw goes too far back, and so they knew that in order for him to get the best lifelong appearance he will first have to have extensive work done on that area, possibly through orthodontics or by breaking and wiring the jaw.

CME2015BillysurgeryIn the OR with Billy

The doctors then adapted their surgery plans to work mainly on the crease in his cheeks so it will look smoother and not be as alarming to people who see him. We hope this will help him get through his adoption with fewer public incidents like the one which happened the day he arrived (see our blog about Day Two). While Billy’s facial cleft wasn’t completely “fixed,” everyone who saw him post-surgery said his appearance was greatly improved. We all care so deeply about this special little boy and are hoping his recovery goes smoothly.

CME2015BllyrecoveryBilly recovering from surgery

Also on the surgery schedule today were Caleb, Josh, Trent, and Shepherd. Their surgeries were very late in the day since Billy’s operation was so complex, and so we will share photos of them tomorrow as the docs were still in surgery as of this update.

Many more babies came to be checked into the hospital today in preparation for their surgeries tomorrow. Look at all of these sweet kids!





CME2015JohnAllen2John Allen, who waves hello to everyone who even looks at him

CME2015LeoraDadLeora and her wonderful daddy

Sheri was also admitted to the floor for surgery tomorrow. This little one had a failed lip repair last year, so her operation will be very complex to take it all down and rebuild it.


One of the rural families who came earlier in the week to our team included Denver and his mom and grandma. They are such a loving and sweet family, and they were very happy their child would have a chance at receiving surgery.

CME2015DenverGrandmaMomDenver’s family

Our team had a very emotional day yesterday when they got back lab results which said baby Denver had a blood condition which would prevent him from having surgery. We had to break the very sad news to his devoted mom, and the grief, shock, and dismay in the room had everyone in tears. We told them that we wanted to repeat the test, and do some additional testing as well, and so his blood work was redrawn and sent to the lab. We had actually asked all of our volunteers on the US side to please be praying for baby Denver, as his family was just so devastated.

Early this morning, we got the incredible news that the first preliminary blood report was wrong. Further testing showed baby Denver is a healthy little guy with no issues which would stop surgery from moving forward. The joy on their faces when the family got the news was simply incredible. There definitely wasn’t a dry eye in the room at their relief and elation.

CME2015DenverMomDenver and his mama

We are thrilled that little Denver will be on the surgery schedule tomorrow, and we are definitely counting this as one of the wonderful little miracles which always seem to happen on these trips.


Thanks again for all of your kind notes and great wishes for the children and our team. We are SO grateful! Tune in tomorrow for more updates!

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