LWB Community Blog

Day Six of the 2015 Cleft Medical Exchange

We know the blogs get longer each day as we report on more and more kids, but we hope you are enjoying the beautiful images and stories from such a special week in Kaifeng. Each child is just so dear to us, and we hope you are falling in love with their sweet spirits like we are.


Morning rounds today were very hectic, with 21 little patients to be seen on the ward.

Baby Trent was already in a great mood today following his surgery last evening. He has such a great personality and hasn’t cried at all. He has really taken a liking to Dr. Tollefson, who always stops to play with him on rounds. Doesn’t he look amazing?

CME2015TrentsmilingTrent post-surgery

The doctors decided to keep little Keane one more day in the hospital, since his family lives in far western China. They have a very long journey ahead of them to get home. His grandma held him all day today, and she was quite worried because he hasn’t wanted to eat very much after surgery. Whenever she would see his mouth open even a tiny bit, she would quickly sneak a spoonful of formula into it. This was an all-day effort of course, because Chinese grandmas don’t give up!

CME2015Keanepostop3Baby Keane

Josh is still not feeling well today. His mom and grandma were always at his side though, trying to keep him comfortable. His surgery had to be postponed until late in the day yesterday as his family didn’t fully understand how important it is to not eat before going under anesthesia. So he had to first digest the giant steamed meat bun they gave him early in the morning. (Oops.)

CME2015JoshFamilyJosh and his wonderful family

Baby Caleb also looked great following his surgery yesterday. We want to thank everyone who donated their children’s “no nos” for this trip. They are ensuring that the kids’ curious hands can’t find their way to their mouths, which could hurt these incredible repairs.

CME2015CalebnonosCaleb getting lots of loving

CME2015Calebpostop“Ummmm….when can I get these red things out of my nose?

Those things in Caleb’s nose (which you can see in the noses of most of our patients during this trip) are nose plugs which are rubber pieces about the diameter of a straw.  They are placed in a child’s nose after cleft lip surgery to help the nostrils keep their shape while the surgery wound is healing.

Samuel was looking much better today, but our team realized he had barely left his bed after surgery. He was lying there quietly listening to traditional Tibetan music on a cellphone.


During morning rounds, the doctors really encouraged Samuel to get up and start walking again. Well…let’s just say that after that, he didn’t want to stay in bed at all! He was riding the elevator up and down, and up and down again since he had never seen one before. Too bad the hospital didn’t have an escalator as we think he would have thought that was pretty cool as well! One volunteer was handing out superhero capes to the kids, and Samuel ended up with Superman. Our China director, Susie, had also printed out copies of all the photos taken of the rural children this week, and so we tucked those in his cape so Samuel could take them home for his mom to see.

CME2015SamuelSupermanSuperman Samuel

The doctors have decided to keep Samuel an additional day, because he wouldn’t have emergency medical treatment available to him in the event of a complication, since his village is so remote. We are really going to miss this incredible family. Thanks to your AMAZING support, we are now in the process of purchasing five female yaks (hooray!), and that never would have happened without YOU. (You can read more about that in our Day Three blog).

CME2015SamuelgoodbyeSamuel’s family and Dr. Derechin

Isabella’s family is so pleased that their daughter was selected to have surgery, but they are very worried about her post-op. Her dad was carefully doing nebulizer treatments this morning to help her breathe.

CME2015IsabelladadIsabella being care for by her dad

When we asked them if there were any other hardships we might possibly be able to help with, they said the only worry they have now is their daughter’s full recovery. Such a devoted and sweet family.

CME2015IsabellaFamilyIsabella with her mom and grandma

Isabella got to choose a new hand-knit hat today, and we think she looks pretty darn cute. We know you’ll agree!

CME2015IsabellaHatIsabella and her new hat

Delia was doing wonderfully today. She played continually with our team and did lots of coloring and puzzles. Delia has sight in just one eye, but she watches our volunteers closely and then wants to repeat whatever they do, with one of her favorites being “thumbs up!”


She also quickly figured out how to change the batteries in the electronic toys we brought, so that kept her busy for quite a while as well.

CME2015DeliaBillybatteriesDelia figures out how to put in batteries while Billy watches

Delia is such a polite and kind little girl. We will really miss her and are all praying she can be chosen by a family soon. We were asking the staff of her orphanage if they felt she had delays, and one of the head nannies said, “She lives in an orphanage. Even with all of us working as hard as we can, it is still an orphanage. All children need families.” Isn’t that the absolute truth?

Billy and Delia are from the same orphanage and are very good friends. He is so gentle and protective of her, and we loved watching them together today.

CME2015BillyDeliaBilly and Delia

And Billy…where to even begin? He is so well-behaved and polite, and he was already feeling so much better today. Before he had surgery, he always had a very difficult time eating as it was hard to get food to stay in his mouth because of his wide facial cleft. Today, he had surprise in his eyes that he was able to put food into his mouth and have it stay there without falling out, on every single bite! We realized this afternoon that Billy had not seen his face since the surgery, and so we asked him if he would like to see the way he looks now. Our incredible photographer on the trip, Sherri Cox, began showing him some photos she had taken on her camera.


The team said it was a very moving moment as Billy saw his new appearance for the first time. Everyone was telling him he was so handsome, and we could see that he was very affected by what he saw. He is usually very talkative and friendly to everyone who comes by, but today he didn’t want to speak at all because he was afraid of hurting his stitches, and he wants everything to heal perfectly.


Abe also had a bit of trouble smiling today, but you could tell he really wanted to! He has beautiful sparkly eyes, and he was very happy to be in the arms of his nanny.

CME2015Abepostop2Abe post-surgery

Later in the day we caught him using her as a recliner while he watched some TV. He looks pretty comfy, doesn’t he?

CME2015Abereclining“Where’s the remote?”

We were all so happy that Shepherd was feeling better today. He looked much stronger than yesterday when the doctors were concerned about possible pneumonia.

CME2015ShepherdnannyShepherd and his nanny

We were all thrilled that Shepherd’s lungs sound better, and while he still has a lot of recovery ahead of him, the antibiotics are making a huge difference. His orphanage staff was very thankful his surgery was able to be done as they are unable to do cleft surgeries locally. Doesn’t he look amazing?


And yes, we know we use that adjective a lot, but there are only so many words for how beautiful the surgeries are! Okay, quick online thesaurus look-up. Please insert your favorite replacement word for how great Shepherd looks! (astonishing, astounding,, stunning, breathtaking; sensational, stupendous!)


“Bundle of energy” Liane was feeling absolutely great today and went room to room checking on all the other patients.


By the end of the day, she was running at the speed of light up and down the hallways. To keep up with her, sweet grandma was wearing Liane’s IV pain drip around her neck while giving chase! Liane is such a treasured little girl.

CME2015LiannevisitingWho needs an IV pole when you have grandma?!

CME2015Liannesmiling“Oh yeah…I am adored.”

Spencer was unfortunately not feeling great today and spent most of the morning in bed.


He finally perked up a bit in the afternoon and was then able to do bubbles with our volunteers. (Behold the power of Motrin!)


He is such a sweet little boy, and he showed us that he can do his nebulizer treatments all by himself. Great job, Spencer! We hope he is back to his sunny self really soon.

CME2015Spencernebulizer2“I got this.”

Madison Claire was also not feeling very well today at all. (Are you seeing a pattern with the palate patients? Palate repair surgery such a big operation for them to go through.) Madison Claire has a really tiny airway, and with the expected swelling from a palate surgery, the doctors had decided to stitch her tongue to the side of her cheek. This is a very “old school” but effective way of keeping the airway clear, and she really needed it done as she is still struggling to breathe a bit.

CME2015MadisonClairesleepingMadison Claire

She was very upset about having the sutures on her face and very smartly tried to remove them by rubbing her cheek against her shoulder. Her grandfather is absolutely over the moon in love with this little girl. We held a pain management training today when we realized that many families were very nervous about how to do it properly once our team members leave. Madison Claire’s grandfather came to the class because he said in the rural countryside he had never administered pain medicine before. He wanted to learn how to do it perfectly for his granddaughter.

Peter, Josiah, and Travis were all discharged for their journeys home today. Peter has a huge fan club at the hospital, and everyone was so sad to see him go.

Peter is the type of little boy who will just wrap his arms around your neck and then lay his head on your shoulder to cuddle. He absolutely loves snuggling, and so it was very hard to let him go!

CME2015PeterpostopWe already miss you, beautiful boy!

Josiah went back to Beijing today as well. He is now being cared for by a charity home there, and he had only arrived to the home from his orphanage a few weeks before the cleft trip. That is one of the reasons he is so tiny, and so we know he is going to gain weight really quickly now in their great care. Josiah is a very smart little boy, and the team said they could all see his fighting spirit. He definitely worked his way into our hearts, but we couldn’t top the care of his completely devoted young nanny. She NEVER left his side.

CME2015JosiahDavidVolunteer David saying one last goodbye to Josiah

Travis is also such an awesome kid, although our volunteers were calling him a complete tease because he is such a little flirt. He will put out his arms to be picked up and hugged (which of course everyone gladly did), but then if he sees someone else comes near, he will put out his arms again to go to the next person. And then with his twinkling eyes he will laugh as if to say, “Sorry! You had your turn!”


After saying goodbye to the kids leaving today, the doctors began operating, with eight children on the surgery schedule. Dr. Tolan operated on Christopher, Claire, Sheri, and then Leora.

Christopher seemed to know something monumental was up when he was put into his hospital gown, but he came through surgery smoothly and was back with his nanny very soon.

CME2015ChristopherpreopChristopher pre-op

CME2015ChristopherpostopBaby Christopher soon after surgery

Baby Claire was the second case for Dr. Tolan today. She looked beautiful in her tiny hospital gown.

CME2015ClairepreopClaire before surgery

Claire struggled a bit to come out of anesthesia, but she was in fabulous hands with nurse Dana making sure she felt safe and comforted.

CME2015ClaireDanaDana and Claire

Just a few hours later, she was up in her nanny’s arms and sporting one of the cute hand-knit hats our team had brought.

CME2015ClairepostopClaire looking adorable post-op

Dr. Tolan’s third case was little Sheri, who had a lip surgery earlier in the year which had come apart post-op. These are often very difficult cases, as the surgeon needs to work through scar tissue and then has less available healthy tissue to re-do the repair.

CME2015SheripreopSheri before surgery

Dr. Tolan did a beautiful job, and you will have to take our word for it until tomorrow as she was eating when we came by to take post-op photos. We definitely didn’t want to disturb her!

CME2015SheripostopSheri post-op

The final case of the day for Dr. Tolan was precious Leora.


This little girl just radiates joy, and she loved interacting with our team. All morning she kept coming down the hall to the office for toys.

CME2015LeoraDad2Leora and her dad

As the surgery time got closer, however, Leora became more and more anxious. She and her father are so attuned to one another that you could see both of their anxiety levels increasing as the day went on. She finally started crying, and then her father started crying as well. He had to go get a cloth to wipe his face because he was weeping thinking about his daughter leaving him for the OR. The team told her, “We will make you look like a princess,” and she then bravely gave a smile to her dad before going down to surgery. Dr. Tolan’s plan for this trip was to remove the bumps from her nose, and he is hoping it will be a fairly easy recovery for her. Ideally she would have much more extensive work done on her nose in the future, but for now…we think she is going to be very happy when her bandages come off.

CME2015LeorapostopLeora post-op

Dr. Tollefson had a very full schedule today as well. His first surgery was little Gabriel, who is such a tiny little guy. Gabriel was soundly sleeping in his nanny’s arms as we prepped him for the OR.


He did really well during his operation, and then he received lots of loving as he woke up. The Chinese nurses at Kaifeng Children’s Hospital are so kind and caring, and they made sure he woke up gently.


Just look at sweet Gabriel only a few hours later!

CME2015Gabrielpostop2Gabriel post op

Next up was Julie, who was having her palate repaired. She was understandably in pain following the operation, and her grandmother was crying so hard to see her feeling uncomfortable.

CME2015JulierecoveryMany tears by grandma

Thankfully her pain was soon under control, and then Julie was back up being comforted by her devoted grandma.

CME2015JuliepostopJulie feeling much better

John Allen was next up on the schedule. We had a wonderful surprise when we saw one of our former healing home nannies bring him to the hospital. This lovely lady worked for many years with us before our home in Henan closed. We were thrilled to know she is now the head nanny over cleft care at the large Kaifeng PT center, which takes babies with cleft from every orphanage in the province! Now we understood why all the babies from this center were so chunky on this trip, as she is a pro at feeding babies with this special need.

CME2015JohnAllenNannyDocsJohn Allen with the most awesome nanny

John Allen was sleeping peacefully when it was time for him to go back to the OR. And no, we didn’t photoshop them – those eyelashes are all his!

CME2015JohnAllensleepingJohn Allen before surgery

CME2015JohnAllensurgeryDr. Tollefson operating on John Allen

He thankfully did great coming out of recovery and was already sitting up on afternoon rounds.

The final case for Dr. Tollefson was baby Denver, whose family had such a traumatic scare about his health earlier in the week. Before his operation, he was very active and just a delight to play with. Denver’s surgery ended up being very complex as he had some issues with the structure of his jaw, and so he was in the OR for a while. His mom was very emotional both during and after the surgery. She was extremely worried about the blood which had dried on his mouth and nose, and so the team assured her that was to be expected. His grandfather was really struggling to see his grandson upset as well, and it has been so moving to our team to see the deep love and concern shown to all the children on this trip.


Denver’s mom is very worried that they won’t be able to afford to have their son’s palate repaired in the future, and we did our best to reassure her that we consider him part of the LWB family now. We will do everything possible to make sure he gets the continued medical care he needs.

CME2015DenverpostopBaby Denver post-op

Thank you a thousand times over for all of your support for the kids this week. The days are very long, and we know the children’s stories are often very emotional. It is when we come together as a community, however, that love truly has no boundaries.

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