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Surgeries give Bolivian families bigger smiles and greater hope

March 7, 2018 • Bolivia
Andrea talks with Jhoel before his surgery. A university student, Andrea served as a language interpreter for the medical team and families. Jhoel's hospital bed is filled with toys and a book about Jesus.
Andrea talks with Jhoel before his surgery. A university student, Andrea served as a language interpreter for the medical team and families. Jhoel's hospital bed is filled with toys and a book about Jesus.

Samaritan's Purse volunteer medical team repaired cleft lips and palates for 25 patients this month in La Paz, Bolivia.

Our medical volunteers surgically repaired Gael's cleft palate. This surgery further corrected the condition that prevented him from being able to ingest food and speak clearly.

Our medical volunteers surgically repaired Gael’s cleft palate. This surgery further corrected the condition that prevented him from being able to ingest food and speak clearly.

The simple activities of talking and eating were a constant struggle for Jhoel. He was born with a gap in his lip, and in Bolivia this often draws painful ridicule. Cleft lip patients face a lifetime of such struggle in places like Bolivia where corrective surgeries are often only a distant dream.

But when his mother Zulema heard about the Samaritan’s Purse cleft lip repair project, she was hopeful her son might have a chance at the life-changing procedure.

We praise God that Jhoel was one of 25 patients who received surgery in La Paz, Bolivia, where nine of our medical volunteers conducted the procedures between Jan. 29 and Feb. 2.

Jhoel already had an infectious grin despite the gap in his lip, but now Zulema is happy that her son will be able to smile bigger than ever.

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Help at Just the Right Time

Jhoel's mother Zulema comforts her son after the surgery to repair his cleft lip.

Jhoel’s mother Zulema comforts her son after the surgery to repair his cleft lip.

When Gael was born, passages between his nose and mouth were connected. So, every time he would eat, the food would come out through his nose.

His mother, Dayné, who works as a housekeeper, pulled together all the extra work she could to pay for surgery.

But a single surgery on his cleft lip, when Gael was 6 months old, was not enough to repair both his cleft lip and palate. This struggling family needed help.

And that came earlier this year when our team of volunteers provided a second surgery—to repair his cleft palate—free of charge. Now 1-year-old Gael is recovering, with a much brighter future.

Helping Families In Jesus’ Name

Through our cleft lip and palate surgery project, we send volunteer medical teams to South Sudan, Bolivia, and Liberia to perform cleft lip and palate surgeries for patients of all ages.

Both 3-month-old Eynar and his father, Sergio, were born with cleft lips. Sergio is grateful that Eynar was able to have surgery so early in life to spare him the bullying that Sergio had endured as a child.

Both 3-month-old Eynar and his father, Sergio, were born with cleft lips. Sergio is grateful that Eynar was able to have surgery so early in life to spare him the bullying that Sergio had endured as a child.

Sergio is a perfect example of the pain and suffering that can be relieved through the relatively simple operations we provide. He himself was born with a cleft lip and palate and experienced painful rejection until he was able to have surgery as a child.

When his son Eynar was born with a cleft lip, Sergio feared that Eynar might face the same stares and rejection that he had.

So they went on a search for surgical options and heard about the Samaritan’s Purse program.

As a result of the surgery to repair Eynar’s cleft lip, Sergio is optimistic that his son will be able to talk with clarity.

Sergio and his wife, Lourdes, simply want Eynar “to grow up strong and healthy and have the same opportunities as any other kid.”

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