LWB Community Blog

The 2016 Cleft Medical Exchange: It Begins!

We are happy to report that LWB’s entire medical team has made it safely to China and the excitement for our 2016 Cleft Medical Exchange has begun!

CME2016 Chisholm 4.18.16

The group was up bright and early on Sunday morning, if not because of day-one jet lag, then in great anticipation of traveling to Henan province to begin meeting the children we will be helping this week. The team was thrilled to be traveling from Beijing to Kaifeng with two of our little patients from the Amazing Hands Healing Home, George and Jacob. Jacob is just learning how to walk, so he was slowly toddling around the train platform and wasn’t afraid of our team at all. George had figured out a pretty cool way to navigate the train station on top of his nanny’s suitcase!

CME2016 George 4.17.16George hitching a ride

On the train ride, George loved looking at the photos of the other babies in our team notebook, and then when he would see himself he would smile big and look at his nanny like, “This is me!” At one point, George climbed right up into the lap of Dr. Clinch, one of the anesthesiologists, and a few moments later she had rocked him sound asleep. That was pretty good practice for when she will put him under for his operation!

CME2016 Jacob Dr Clinch 4.16.16George, right at home with Dr. Clinch

After the team arrived in Kaifeng, they immediately headed to the hospital to begin evaluating surgical candidates for the week. The first day of intake is always a bit chaotic, but soon the volunteers had found a good rhythm, systematically weighing each child (babies must weigh at least 10 pounds before having surgery) and taking baseline temperatures. The seasoned group operated in sync, passing files to each other, answering questions, and filling in the required information, all the while engaging playfully and lovingly with each child and caregiver. Thankfully, all the children evaluated today qualified for surgery!

CME2016 KathyClinch flashlightDr. Clinch checking out Jacob

We were so happy when the kids from our healing homes in Anhui arrived. Tiny Violet came into our care from an orphanage in western China when she just couldn’t seem to gain any weight, most likely due to her cleft lip. When she first arrived to our Heartbridge Healing Home, she weighed just 2 kg at five months of age.

Violet 11.17.15Violet in November 2015

We are all so thrilled that she has gained the weight she needed to have her surgery, although the team commented several times about how teeny tiny of a little girl she still is! Violet is firmly attached to her nanny, and while she wouldn’t grace any of our team members with her smile, she flashed it several times for her devoted nanny.

CME2016 Violet 4.17.16Violet, smiling through her tears

Mary Beth is another one of our current Heartbridge residents, and like Violet, she only has eyes for her nanny. She has an extremely wide, bilateral cleft lip, so her surgery will be a more complicated one. And yes…Mary Beth’s hair is just as magnificent in person as it is in her photos that we receive from China each week!

CME2016 Mary Beth 4.17.16Mary Beth and her curls!

Sunny Chisholm, from the Anhui Healing Home, also arrived in Kaifeng today. This little boy is from the same orphanage as Violet, and unfortunately his initial cleft lip repair broke apart several months ago. We had planned for him to be on this year’s cleft exchange schedule, but after the surgeons more fully evaluated him, they decided that it was just too soon to attempt another repair. The tissue that broke apart before is still healing, and since Chisholm has now been chosen by a family for adoption (HOORAY!), he will receive his life-changing surgery after he meets his new family. What a blessed family they will be, as Chisholm is such an incredible little boy whose smiles light up the room.

CME2016 Chisholm 4.17.16Chisholm and his nanny

Some of you might remember Gary, who stayed with us in our healing home program as a tiny baby when he had his cleft lip repaired last year.

Gary 3-1-15Gary in 2015

Gary arrived today to see our team in Kaifeng, as they will be repairing his palate now as well. Gary’s file has been available for adoption for quite some time, but the last time we checked, no family had yet stepped forward. Maybe this will be the week that someone will see him and know he is their son. Our team leader Kate Finco said he is a total sweetheart, UNTIL it is time for a diaper change — and then his protests could bring the roof down.

Dr. Tolan and Dr. Derechin examining Gary

CME2016 Gary 4.17.16Gary and his nanny

Another familiar face from last year is gorgeous Spencer, who is also waiting to be chosen for a family. Spencer is part of our Believe in Me orphanage school program in Gansu. He had his palate repaired last year by our cleft team, and this year he has come back to have a revision of his lip.

CME2015SpencerSpencer in 2015

Spencer doesn’t know a stranger, and he willingly gave fist bumps and high fives to our team. We must not have scared him too much last year, as he was perfectly content to climb up into the hospital bed for his exam.

CME2016 Spencer 4.17.16Spencer is ready to see the doctors!

Next it was Joy’s turn for her pre-surgery check-up, and Dr. Tolan has a little bit more work to do to win her over. She did NOT want to cooperate when he tried to check her palate, but he managed to peek inside her mouth and give her a thumbs up for the operation. Thankfully she was back to smiling just a few moments later.

CME2016 Joy 4.17.16Joy

One of the biggest surprises of the day came when the physical exam was done on little David. Thanks to a paperwork typo when we first accepted him on the trip, we were under the impression that David was a handsome little boy. After a short chat with his loving nanny, we found out that he is most definitely a SHE, and David was renamed Cindy after our wonderful Chinese medical director! Cindy, we don’t blame you for giving us that look – and we hope you’ll accept our apologies!


Little Stephanie arrived to see the medical team and unfortunately was quickly diagnosed with a case of scabies. Thankfully that won’t prevent her from having surgery, but it does mean she will be isolated from the other children for now.

CME2016 Stephanie 4.17.16Stephanie

Due to severe rains in Fujian province, flights were delayed, and baby Samuel wasn’t able to make it to Henan today. However, we have assured his caregiver that he can be moved to later in the week. Since Samuel won’t make it in time for surgery tomorrow, we have substituted Leo instead. This beautiful nine-month-old little boy charmed everyone who met him.


If you followed our blogs in 2014 and 2015, you might remember beautiful Liane, whose rural grandparents are farmers who worked their fields with her strapped to their backs in a baby carrier.

Liane and grandparents (1)Liane and her grandparents in 2014

LWB was honored to help Liane with both her cleft lip and palate surgeries, and we were thrilled when her grandparents brought her to see our team today. Doesn’t she look absolutely beautiful?

So without further ado, here is the schedule for the first day of surgery:

Dr. Tolan and team’s OR:
Leo – unilateral cleft lip
Jacob – palate
Charlie – unilateral cleft lip
Charlotte – palate

Dr. Tollefson and team’s OR:
Stephanie – unilateral cleft lip
George – palate
Cindy (definitely NOT David) – unilateral cleft lip
Gary – palate
Joy – palate

Leo, modeling one of the many bibs made and donated by our amazing supporters!

More children will be arriving for intake tomorrow, and we can’t wait to introduce you to them. We are so grateful to everyone who is thinking of the children and our team this week, and we can feel the positive energy circling the globe. Here are a few more photos from today so you can share in our excitement!

CME2016 extra 4.17.16George

Emory and his dad playing with Dr. Clinch

Jacob getting to know volunteer Kirstin Clark

We truly couldn’t do it without you.

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