LWB Community Blog

The 2016 Cleft Medical Exchange: Day Three

It’s always a wonderful thing to be able to write, “Yet another great day.” We started our Tuesday with morning rounds to check on the children who had surgery the day before.

Baby Leo was a little quiet this morning and gave everyone a scare with some pretty raspy breathing after drinking some formula, but his oxygen levels were good and his lungs were clear. We think he just wanted to keep us on our toes! He has also given us our very first “before and after photo” of the trip. It’s just so amazing to see.

Leo, before and after cleft repair surgery

Jacob has recovered wonderfully from his surgery yesterday as well. He was a little more quiet than normal but was happy to be held by anyone on our team. Thankfully he doesn’t appear to be in too much discomfort and really enjoyed being strolled in the hallway with his new teddy bear by his side.

Jacob and teddy strolling the halls

Gorgeous George was still subdued today, but he liked being taken for a walk on the ward by our volunteer Nick. He also loved coloring a picture with some new crayons, and he wanted to show it off to everyone in the hallway. Great job, George!

New friends Nick and George

Charlie is from one of the larger orphanages in China, and we think he is used to doing a lot of things on his own as he really doesn’t want any of our team to hold him. He prefers to lie in the bed, but thankfully he is taking his milk and water well. Doesn’t he look absolutely amazing? We are very grateful that he is recovering so well.


Cindy was pretty quiet during morning rounds, but by the afternoon was toddling around the floor. She has really loved the stuffed animals our team brought as gifts, and she was very content holding onto a panda almost as big as she is.

Cindy and her giant panda

Our team said goodbye to Gary today as he is preparing to make the journey to Beijing for healing home care. While we are still disappointed he wasn’t able to receive his palate surgery, we are just so happy he will get this extra nurturing to help him grow stronger.

We love you, Gary!

Soon it was time for the operations to get started, and first up was little Allyson. She was very distressed going into the operating room, which really upset her mom.

LWB CME 2016Beautiful Allyson

The worry and dismay on her mom’s face was clear the entire time her daughter was in surgery. We were very glad when Allyson came out of the anesthesia and was able to get back to her parents’ arms.


Joy was waving hello to everyone this morning before her operation, and she went back to the OR a bit quietly but not crying. She is recovering very well, and she would even wave her little fingers at us as we passed by, since her arms are mobilized in the no-nos.


Precious Violet received an amazing lip repair today. She is going to have such a beautiful smile when her lip fully heals. She was quiet after her operation but was taking milk soon after, given by her wonderful nanny from our healing home.


Baby Samuel had a very smooth surgery as well. He looked wonderful as he came into the PACU, and we know he is going to look more and more handsome as he heals.

Next up was little Denver. You might remember him and his dramatic story from our cleft exchange in 2015.

CME2015DenverMomDenver and his mom in 2015

Last year, Denver came to our team with his rural parents, who were so happy he would finally receive the cleft lip he needed. Their joy turned to dismay, though, when preliminary blood tests said that their son had a blood condition which would prevent him from having surgery. We had to break the terrible news to his devoted mom, and the grief and shock in the room had everyone in tears.

Thankfully the next day, after ordering much more extensive blood work done, we got the incredible news that the first preliminary report was wrong. Baby Denver was 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, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the room at their relief and elation. Denver went on to sail through his first operation.

Denver today

Denver returned to this year’s cleft trip with his mom, dad, and both grandparents. The surgery was very hard on his doting grandmother, and she worried and fretted the entire time he was in the operating room. We are so happy that his palate repair went very well, and he was still sleeping with his very attentive family when we left at the end of the day.

We sure got to see a very different side to Shane this morning before his operation. He was laughing nonstop and fully engaged with everyone who stopped by his bedside, especially when he saw the cool finger puppets we had brought.

Shane, shy no more!

His mood changed quickly, however, when it was time to go back to the OR. We ended up bringing him back to the ward as soon as possible once he woke up as he was missing his foster mom so much.

As we mentioned in the blog yesterday, we were honored to welcome baby Daniella to Kaifeng, who had traveled with two Buddhist nuns from Fujian province.

Many people do not realize that in China, some abandoned children are not taken to the local orphanages but instead are given to temples in the area for the monks or nuns to raise. Many temples have long traditions of caring for abandoned children, and many of those children grow up to become nuns or monks themselves.

Daniella is from a seaside temple which is caring for 17 children at the moment, most with medical needs. The nuns who brought her to Kaifeng were in fact orphaned themselves as babies and raised in the very same temple. They told us that the children are very well-cared for there, and the nuns believe that the babies they are given are sent straight to them from Buddha.

In addition to Daniella’s cleft lip and palate, she was also born with a heart defect. Last year, the nuns took out a loan for over 30,000 RMB to get Daniella the operation she needed because they love this baby so much. They haven’t asked anyone for donations toward that loan but trust that the funding will arrive at the right time to repay it.

The reason we are feeling very honored to operate on Daniella is that this isn’t the first time she has had the opportunity to have her lip repaired. At this temple, the nuns use Jiaobei blocks (sometimes known as moon blocks) to aid them in wise decision making. Moon blocks originated in China, and they are used in pairs to answer yes and no questions.

This ancient Buddhist tradition depends on how these crescent shaped blocks land after they are rolled during a ceremony. There is only one way the blocks can land in order to interpret a straight “yes” answer. Each time an opportunity for a surgical repair has come up for Daniella, the head nun prayed and performed the moon block ceremony to see if the operation would be smooth. Each time the sign she was given was a bad one, and so the operation did not take place. After we offered to have Daniella come to see our team in Kaifeng, the nuns decided to consult the moon blocks again. For the first time in Daniella’s little life, the blocks rolled a definite YES on the very first roll! So, the young nuns set off on a lengthy journey to Henan Province, enduring long delays, but still arriving with smiling faces.

When one of our team members asked if there was anything at all they could get for them, the gentle nuns’ response was only, “Just to heal her lip.”

The bond between Daniella and her caregivers is very deep, and in fact after her surgery she was very upset waking up in the PACU, so the nuns went into the recovery room to help calm her down. She has a wonderful lip repair and will have a beautiful new smile, we are sure.

Spencer was a bundle of fun and energy in the morning, pretending to be Superman and playing with some finger puppets that he was given by the team.

He was last on the surgery list today for his lip revision, which we are happy to report went very well.

He was back with his nanny in record time, who told us the very best news: Spencer has an adoptive family waiting to bring him home, and they hope to travel later this summer! This has made everyone’s day. We are just so excited for this outgoing and personable little boy.

We did intake on several new children today, who will be having surgery tomorrow. We’d like to introduce you to Melinda, Emory, Lily, Winnie, Levi, and Emma.

Melinda arrived to KCH today with her very large extended family. She is an adorable little girl who will be having her palate repaired.

Melinda on her dad’s lap

Emory is also having his palate repaired. He came with his rural parents, and he showed off his mad skills at blowing kisses, giving love to everyone who walked past.

Emory blowing us a kiss!

Lily is a very quiet but lovely little girl, who will be having her palate repaired as well.


Winnie is a beautiful girl with a little pigtail on top of her head. She looked at us very suspiciously and preferred to stay close to mom and dad. She will be having her palate repaired.


Levi arrived to see our team today as well, and he will be having palate surgery.


Emma is another pretty child who will be having her lip repair done. She showed up with her family wearing a hat with lots of curly hair attached to it.

Emma and her family

Also on the surgery schedule for tomorrow will be little Alina, the baby who was recently discovered at a tea farm.

Alina gets to know Dr. Clinch

Mary Beth (also known as “Elvis” because of her swooping hair) is scheduled for her repair tomorrow as well. She has the most amazing smile, and she shares it with her nanny and our volunteers nonstop.

Mary Beth makes everyone around her smile!

Thank you for all of your words of encouragement for the team. We are truly grateful! Here are some extra photos from today which warmed our hearts.

Dr. Liu and Dr. Tolan working side by side

CME2016 another surgery begins 4.19.16Surgery begins

Emma getting kisses from her mama

Emma and her hat with the attached curls

CME2016 Winnie kisses 4.19.16Kisses from Winnie

Exhausted:  how much of our team is probably feeling right now!

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