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The Wonderful and Amazing Gavin!

A facial cleft — a gap in the soft tissue, bone, or both that occurs during fetal development that involves not only the mouth and nose but also affects the rest of the face of a newborn — is extremely rare. The care involved to ensure the baby learns to suck and swallow without aspirating the fluid into their tiny lungs requires patience and skill.  Fortunately, LWB’s Anhui Cleft Healing Home (ACHH) provided the perfect combination of loving care and skilled caregiving needed by one very special baby named Gavin.  Here’s the story of how Gavin went from being a baby with some big health issues to the grinning, happy boy you see here!

When Gavin was just 13 days old, he was transferred from his orphanage to the Anhui Cleft Healing Home.  He had been born with a  “Tessler Facial Cleft” on the right side of his face, extending up into his cheek and to his eyelid.  As you can imagine, it was very difficult to feed Gavin when he first arrived at ACHH.  His nanny required the utmost patience and attention to feed him very slowly by spoon.  Of course, spoon feeding would take so long that Gavin would lose his patience and become upset and cry.  Thankfully, he soon graduated to bottle feedings, which was still a daunting task for the nanny but made Gavin a much happier boy as he could get milk more quickly!

When arranging the April 2009 Cleft exchange mission in Shanghai at Fudan Children’s Hospital, we sent a picture of Gavin to Dr. John Ness, a skilled craniofacial surgeon from Minnesota and a veteran of many medical missions.  Dr. Ness thought it would be possible to operate on Gavin when he was in Shanghai. He had performed this type of surgery before, and the surgeons at Fudan were anxious to learn from watching the procedure.

We at LWB were excited, yet cautious, as we didn’t know if Gavin would be able to gain the required weight to proceed with the surgery.  Miraculously, Gavin weighed exactly 10 pounds by the day of surgery!  However, he wasn’t out of the woods yet.  Gavin became sick the first day of the medical exchange and was unable to receive surgery.  He was given antibiotics and watched carefully all week with hopes that he would be well enough by Friday to receive his life-changing surgery. So many people around the world were praying and wondering, “Would Gavin get his turn?”  On Friday, his lungs were clear and he appeared strong.  Gavin was deemed healthy enough to receive his surgery by Dr. Ness and the team.

We were all excited and anxious to see Gavin’s new face but we had to wait over four hours for our first look. To everyone’s delight and joy, where there was once a large gap was now a carefully pieced, swollen but now made whole face of a very handsome boy.

Gavin’s story did not end with the medical exchange.  He recovered well and rapidly from his surgery and was discharged back to ACHH just three days post-op!  Soon we were even able to get a smile out of him for the camera. What a strong, happy baby!

As you can see, Gavin’s transformation is nothing short of amazing.  Gavin is now living with a foster family and his file has been submitted for adoption, so we are very hopeful he will soon find his forever family.

When I look at Gavin’s photos, I am simply awestruck by the story of this one boy. Once, the very large cleft engulfing face was all one could see.  Now, the first thing one notices is a small boy with sparkling eyes and a grin to win your heart. Who knows what he may accomplish in his life!

Maureen Brogan is the Adoption Advocate Coordinator and Medical Trips Coordinator for LWB. She is a mom to 6 and lives in California.

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