LWB Community Blog

The 2016 Cleft Medical Exchange: A Very Long Day Four

Day four of our 2016 Cleft Medical Exchange has come to a close, and it was a very long day for our team.

CME2016 Cindy pondering 4.20.16“Whew – this surgery stuff can be pretty tiring!”

Before we talk about the surgeries which took place today, we want to let you know how some of the patients from earlier in the week are doing now.

We have great news that little Jacob and George were both well enough to be discharged from the hospital today. Their nannies gave huge hugs to our team before they left, and George and Jacob allowed us to smother them with kisses before they headed outside. George decided to give himself a little kiss as well, in the mirror.

“Hello handsome!”

The staff at Amazing Hands Healing Home does such a wonderful job with the kids in their care, and it was obvious to our entire team just how loved these little boys are.

Baby Leo was also discharged from the hospital today, and anyone who has ever experienced a Chinese grandmother’s insistence on bundling a baby from head to toe will appreciate how he looked before he went outside!

The other babies who underwent lip surgery continue to recover well. Here are a few more before and after photos for you so you can see the beautiful transformations.





Shane (from our foster care program in Xiaoxian) was a little bit grumpy when our team first arrived to the hospital, and of course we couldn’t blame him since he had just undergone palate surgery the day before. However, when he saw our volunteer Nick come around the corner, he threw open his arms and reached out for his new buddy with lots of giggles.


Poor little Daniella was not a happy camper today at all, and so the nuns took turns walking her around the hospital. They are thrilled with her repair, and we all hope that this sweet girl feels better in the morning.

Daniella walking the halls with the Buddhist nun who is her caregiver

Today we had many rural children on the schedule, and first up was Melinda for her palate repair. This quiet little girl lives with her family in the countryside outside of Kaifeng. She is one of three children, with an older brother who is five and a younger sister who is three. Her father is a day laborer in the construction business. When she was one month old, her parents discovered that she had an open palate. Melinda is nearly three years old now, and we are so happy she could be part of our trip.

CME2016 Melinda 4.19.16

Melinda’s entire loving family is here at the hospital supporting her through her surgery, which includes her mom and dad, two siblings, paternal grandparents, her mother’s aunt, and a cousin…so they had quite a big presence in the hospital today.

All of them waited outside the doors of the surgical ward, nervously awaiting news on how the operation was progressing. Melinda’s repair went smoothly and she was sent to the PACU, but then suddenly the surgery site began bleeding fairly heavily. The surgeons were called in and decided to take her back to the OR right away.

Melinda’s parents were extremely worried about her since she was away from them for many hours, and they were all very relieved when she finally was able to be taken to the ward. Her grandfather was so grateful to the LWB team for operating on his granddaughter that he brought in an enormous bag of the local peanuts to say thank you. Our translator kept telling him it wasn’t necessary, but he insisted that their family really wanted to show their gratitude. After his gift was accepted, the grandfather was then at peace that they had done their part as well.

Lily also had lip surgery today, and she did beautifully. Lily has an older brother who is nine years old and an older sister who is seven. Her grandparents are farmers who have been struggling as her grandpa hurt his leg quite badly last year by falling. He is here at the hospital with her and never wants to leave her side.


Little Emory also was scheduled for palate surgery today. He is an only child, and he is OH so loved and adored. Emory was born with a congenital heart defect as well as his cleft palate, and he needed to have surgery when he was just three months old, after becoming failure to thrive. In order to pay for the operation, his family had to borrow a great sum of money, as they were rural farmers with a very meager income. When Emory turned two, his parents decided they had to become migrant workers and leave their village in order to make more money to pay back the loans. Emory was then cared for by his aunt and her three older children who all love him so much. When his parents heard there was a chance for their son to have a free palate surgery, they actually had to quit their jobs in order to be allowed to come back and be with him during the operation. The doctors were a bit worried about the complexity of his surgery as he has such a small jaw, but he came through with flying colors.

Emory is a very sweet and engaging child, and we are very happy we could play a part in his healing.

Emma’s family is also very impoverished. Her father is the only son of a very large family, and he works in construction two hours away by bus from the home in order to support them. Emma’s grandma and grandpa are farmers, and she is the only grandchild.

Emma had a very small cleft lip, but it still was enough that it could have caused her a great deal of stigma in China, so Dr. Tolan worked meticulously to make sure his stitches and her nose looked beautiful. We will have some post-op photos to share tomorrow.

Winnie’s palate repair also went great today. She sailed through surgery with no problems at all and was soon back with her very devoted family.

Winnie in her mom’s lap

One of the most complex surgeries of the day was for little Mary Beth, who had come to our Heartbridge Healing Home when she was just one month old.

Mary Beth’s first photo from Heartbridge

When we first looked at her intake photo this past winter, we saw that she was completely missing the base of her nose, and so we knew it would be a very difficult repair.

Team member Kate Finco was discussing her case with Dr. Tolan this morning, and she asked the question so many of us might have, which is “When nothing at all is there, how do you fix that?” Dr. Tolan just smiled and told her to come into the OR to watch the magic take place…and we do mean magic, as Mary Beth came out of surgery looking absolutely wonderful. Dr. Tollefson worked on her lip and nose, and the transformation was profound. We’ll share some post-op photos tomorrow.

Baby Alina also got a beautiful lip repair today, and she was resting comfortably as the team left for the evening.

Sweet dreams, Alina!

We had several more patients arrive to the hospital today, two from one of our favorite charities in China, New Hope Foundation. We were excited to meet Seraphina and Omar, who were both arriving for bilateral cleft repairs. Both children were delightful, and we quickly got them decked out with new bibs, toys, and a cute homemade sweater that one of our volunteer’s moms had knit. The doctors thoroughly examined little Seraphina, as we knew from her intake form that she had a history of seizures. We also learned today, however, that she is hypotonic and sadly at a great risk of aspiration, so the doctors made the difficult decision to remove her from the schedule.

Sweet Seraphina

Since the hospital doesn’t have a pediatric ICU on site, our surgeons felt it could truly end up being a life or death situation in the operating room, and so she will need to have her repair at a major hospital center instead.

LWB volunteer Laurie loved her snuggles with Seraphina

Omar was a very outgoing and happy little boy, and as you can see, he wasn’t afraid of our team at all as they examined him.

Omar cooperating with Dr. Clinch for his pre-op checkup

Omar met all the criteria for surgery, and his place on the OR schedule was confirmed.

CME2016 Omar 4.20.16Omar

Having operations tomorrow will be three children from the Kaifeng PT Center, which cares for orphaned children from throughout Henan province. We have really enjoyed partnering with them over the years on a wide variety of projects, and we are happy to help with surgeries for the children in their care.

The tentative surgery schedule for tomorrow includes:

Brad – orphaned child – palate
Greg – orphaned child – palate
Christopher – a 21 year old from rural Fujian, whom we will introduce tomorrow
Ray – orphaned child – unilateral cleft lip
Levi – orphaned child – palate (he got bumped from today’s schedule when Melinda needed to be taken back to the OR)
Alexander – rural child – palate
Omar – orphaned child – bilateral cleft lip
And then either Leora or Michael, depending on the schedule – we will keep you posted!

Smiles from Levi

Here are a few extra photos from today we though you might enjoy.

Joy from our foster care program in Tongren is feeling quite cheeky after her palate surgery!

China Director Stephanie with adorable Omar

Dr. Tollefson practices his baby whispering skills on Ray

CME2016 Charlotte mom 4.20.16Charlotte and her grateful mom several days after palate surgery

CME2016 Mary Beth nanny 4.20.16 Mary Beth getting some last-minute cuddles with her nanny before surgery

LWB volunteer Nick with Christopher, who will be having surgery this week

Ray, our youngest patient, scheduled for surgery tomorrow.

Winnie sleeping peacefully after her palate surgery

CME2016 Violet postop 4.20.16Violet continues to recover well post-op

Thanks so much for the continued good wishes for our team and all the children who have come to see us in Kaifeng.  More news tomorrow!

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  • Sarah says:

    These stories are all so moving and the children all so different and so beautiful. Thank you for sharing their stories.
    My daughter is from Xuzhou and had cl/cp. Her finding place was a pagoda and I wonder if perhaps she might have been cared for by nuns like your little Daniella if things had turned out differently for her. Daniella’s story is particularly beautiful and moving. Sending prayers and much support from Canada.