LWB Community Blog

Day Three of the Cleft Exchange: Happy Birthday, Dr. Ness!

All of us at LWB sure are happy that Dr. John Ness came into this world a few decades ago. Before we tell you about the surgery day, we just want to thank this very special man, who has traveled with LWB on cleft trips multiple times to change the lives of so many children. We had an extra special surprise for him today, when we asked him to sit back on one of the hospital beds so the very grateful nannies could make a “baby pile” on his lap in honor of all he has done. Following the photo, the nannies all sang a very special happy birthday song in Chinese to him. Later that night he was presented with a dragon cake, and we hope this was a birthday he will never forget.


Wednesday was a very complex surgery day, with ten operations completed. Many of you know little Marieli, from our Henan Healing Home. The doctors believe she might have Pierre Robin Syndrome, as she has a teeny tiny little mouth. We knew it was little, as our nannies in the healing home had to work very hard to feed her as a baby. But today when Dr. Ness took her back to the OR, he discovered that her mouth is so tiny that he couldn’t even get his finger in her mouth. Of course, since she needed her palate repaired, this presented big challenges. Dr. Ness needed to do a cut down on the side of her mouth to open up the surgery area, and then stitch her tongue to the side of her mouth. The nurses in China had not seen that done before, so a lot of explanations were needed on exactly what her immediate post-op care would look like. We are glad to report that she is doing very well, although she understandably isn’t very happy tonight.

While Dr. Ness was completing a very successful palate repair for Marieli, Dr. Tolan was in OR room 2 operating on little Michael from the Henan Healing Home Michael is the baby who has required a feeding tube as doctors thought there was a possibility of a cleft trachea as well. His surgery was a very difficult case, but he came out of the operation well. When he came out of the OR, no one recognized him. They handed him to his nanny, who burst into tears when she saw his sweet face. She said, “He is just gorgeous,” while crying with happiness. Michael’s feeding tube is now out, and we will be following him closely.

Michael and his nanny

George Bradford was one of the babies on the surgery schedule today as well. He has SUCH a big name that Dr. Clinch, the anesthesiologist, said she was expecting this big, huge toddler to come up to the OR, and instead there was just this tiny speck on the table. He has some heart issues as well, but he came out of surgery looking wonderful.

George Bradford

Little Colleen, who is missing both of her arms, has charmed everyone on the team. She was very giggly and interactive before heading to surgery. She ended up having a very tough surgery as well, as she has some circulation issues with her PFO/ASD heart defects. She is so very tiny. The team will be watching her very closely as well, but we want her sponsors to know that her cleft repair is just beautiful.

Mrs. Ness holding Colleen

Louise was feeling very playful today considering she just had her palate surgery yesterday. She was sitting up and playing “copycat” with our team leader Maureen. Maureen would stick out her tongue, and then Louise would mimic her right back.

Copycat Louise

The first children who had surgery on this trip were discharged from the hospital today to make their journeys home. All the children from Guizhou were able to say their goodbyes. Everyone was sad to see Emma’s foster mom leave the ward as she was incredibly helpful and kind to everyone and made sure all the kids were doing well. However, Maureen began a “bib war” when she gave a few extra beautiful handmade bibs to one nanny (who of course then went and told the other nannies that she got more). The bibs have been an absolute hit with everyone, and we are hopeful that we can continue to have people make these great gifts for the orphanages. Thank you everyone who sent them!

Emma and her nanny say goodbye to Dr. Ness

Tomorrow, several rural children will get their operations, as well as six orphaned children. Tomorrow will also be Betsy’s turn. When we first were given her information and photo, we thought she had a very simple cleft lip. However, once our doctors met her, we learned that she was just abandoned last year, and she has a huge scarred area on her chin. The doctors ordered a CT scan, and they believe that instead of being born with cleft, instead she suffered a major injury to her face. Whatever cut through her chin and jaw caused her lip to split in two. There is a chance that there is still active infection in this area, so please be thinking of sweet Betsy tomorrow as we are all hopeful she can be helped.


We are so grateful for all the wonderful messages of support for the kids and our team that you are posting to our Facebook page. We hope all of you know that this trip is only happening because of your support – and this is a true partnership with all of us to bring beautiful healing to children in need.

Katherine, Steven, and Isaac are feeling much better already!

~Amy Eldridge, Executive Director


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  • roomforatleastonemore says:

    OK, now I’m crying big tears after reading about Michael’s nanny crying. That really got to me.

    I’m going to see what I can do about some bibs, but I’m not a seamstress. I happy to know one though! 😉

    Please keep the posts coming!

    Thank you to Dr. Ness, his entire team, and to the nannies and foster Mommas who love these children unconditionally.

    We will always be so grateful for our two children’s foster Mommas, who loved them well and then let them go.

    LWB is AWESOME!!!

  • Brooke says:

    Awww…they are so precious! Thank you Dr. Ness for your hard work!

  • Kristy says:

    Oh…and as for bibs….YOU GOT IT!!!! Just keep me posted on travel dates and need! 🙂

  • Kristy says:

    Beautiful! Beautiful! Beautiful!!!