LWB Community Blog

LWB’s 2019 Cleft Exchange – Day Two

Welcome to Day Two of the 2019 LWB Cleft Surgery Exchange – also known as “Let the surgeries begin!”  Sixteen children were on the schedule for today, so our team wasted no time doing final checks on their patients before getting underway.

First up for Dr. Buckmiller’s room was 8-month-old Finley, a gorgeous little boy whose young parents live in a small rural town 800 km away from Lanzhou.  They traveled 11 hours by train with their little boy hoping he would qualify for surgery. Finley’s father works very hard to make ends meet for the family. In the summer, he plants black wolfberries in the mountain region of Gansu, but the rest of the year he migrates far from his wife and little boys to Guangdong province to do factory work.


As we’ve discussed in the past on this blog, for over a decade China’s birth defect rate had begun skyrocketing, with over a million babies a year being born with congenital medical needs. In the last two years, however, the birth defect rate has begun falling, as noted in several Chinese research articles. The government has expanded premarital medical checks and information on the importance of nutritional needs like folic acid, as well as launching a nationwide campaign for women in even the most rural areas to receive prenatal ultrasound screenings. This has subsequently led to an increase in terminations if birth defects are found.

In Finley’s case, his cleft lip was identified during a six-month fetal ultrasound, while the doctor was unable to determine whether he was a boy or girl. His parents told our team that not only did they not care what gender their baby was, but they certainly weren’t going to stop a child being born because of a cleft lip diagnosis. They knew that having a baby with cleft would require more time for his feeding and care, but they told us they had more than enough love to make sure all his needs are met.

Finley is such a happy baby with the sweetest chubby cheeks, and we look forward to seeing his new smile after he feels well enough to give one.  Finley’s parents would like to send a message to everyone who made this cleft trip possible.  “Thank you for caring about our beloved son.”

First peek at Finley post-op

Another baby having surgery today is beautiful Kamryn, whose photo we shared yesterday.  This 4-month-old lives with her dad, mom and older sister.  Her cleft lip was also diagnosed on ultrasound, but her father went on to tell us that he had cleft lip as a baby himself (which wasn’t able to be repaired until he was 7 years old). He said the only way most people would know now is that he can’t grow a mustache due to the small scar on his upper lip. Just like Finley’s family, Kamryn’s mom and dad told us that they very much wanted their daughter to be born, telling our team how very special and precious her life is.  They heard about LWB’s Cleft Exchange from a relative who works in the Lanzhou hospital and were so happy to know their daughter would get the surgery she needs. Our team kept commenting that every time you look at the dad holding his daughter, you can see how much he adores her.

Kamryn was resting comfortably after her surgery and will hopefully feel a lot better tomorrow.

Three-month-old Jeremy was also on the surgery schedule today. He is the first child of a very sweet (and young) couple. They did not know their child would be born with cleft until he arrived because during his ultrasound, he decided to keep his little hands directly over his mouth region.

Jeremy was born with a very rare type of congenital facial cleft called macrostomia, which is when the cleft occurs on the side of the mouth versus the upper lip. It only occurs about once in every 80,000 births and usually affects more boys than girls. Jeremy’s parents adore their baby son and are so happy and grateful for the opportunity for him to receive surgery.

Jeremy wide awake in the recovery room

Soon it was time for little Faye to be taken to the OR for her palate operation. While sitting in the pre-op area, it seemed she was starting to remember that maybe this surgery stuff isn’t exactly a fun experience.

Thankfully within moments of the team taking back to the OR, she was safely under anesthesia, sound asleep.

We have loved seeing how quickly our team has come together to provide the best possible care to each of the children needing surgery. This LWB team of doctors and nurses have never traveled together before, and yet with wonderful communication everything is going very smoothly.

Following the surgeries, it was time to do additional patient intake, and we were thrilled to welcome a beautiful little boy who has been in LWB care since he was a tiny baby.  Darien is from our foster care program in Guizhou province, and he is being raised by one of our very best foster grandmas. When she heard that an LWB team was going to be in Lanzhou, she wanted to make the journey to make sure sweet Darien got a wonderful palate repair.  Here’s a photo of Darien when his orphanage first asked us for assistance (yep, he wasn’t exactly happy but we love newborns with strong lungs!)

And here is Darien now!

Our photographer on this trip would definitely agree with his monthly foster care reports, which describe him as nonstop busy, curious, and a very determined little boy.  We think he basically explored the whole hospital today making friends with all the other kids he met.

We also welcomed another orphaned child today for intake, a tiny little girl from an orphanage in western China. She just barely made the surgery weight requirement despite being 18 months of age.

We are hoping that having her lip repaired will allow her to eat better and put on some needed weight.  We’ve seen children with cleft struggle to gain weight in orphanage settings since the very beginnings of LWB, which is why we are such huge proponents of family-based care for those born with this medical condition.  Please be thinking of little Rylan as she undergoes surgery tomorrow.

Well, it’s probably time to end for today so that final surgery plans for tomorrow can take place. We’ll leave you with a few more beautiful images from our very special second day.

More soon!

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  • Sarah Whitehead says:

    They are such beautiful pictures full of love and care. Thank you for sharing with us during such a busy time.