Operation Smile is a charity organization for children – donate non profit
Operation Smile is a charity organization for children – donate non profit

March 11, 2014

Turned away from surgery, but there's still hope

Joe Sigrin , Senior Program Coordinator

comments | comment now

I just got back from Honduras, where I oversaw February’s medical mission there as the International Program Coordinator. Thanks to Operation Smile supporters, our team of 52 medical volunteers from around the world were able to provide 272 medical evaluations and 160 surgical procedures to 117 patients during our ten days in Tegucigalpa. So many new smiles, and so many inspiring stories.

But despite the overwhelming joy I saw in Tegucigalpa, one little girl’s story broke my heart.

Because of a rare facial deformity, 13-year-old Isis has no nose. She's acutely aware of her deformity. She knows that she looks different — constantly reminded through bullying, taunting and abuse. Behind her large, dark eyes, you can see the suffering she's endured.

When she heard in the spring of 2008 that Operation Smile would be coming to Tegucigalpa for a medical mission, she was overjoyed. She and her mother traveled for hours by bus to the capitol, and her first few screenings went well. But when she arrived at the final stage of the screening process — where patients are told whether the procedure could be completed safely and effectively — the plastic surgeon had no choice but to tell her, "No."

Isis's facial deformities were too complex to be treated — not just on that mission, but on any mission.

That was 6 years ago.

Since then, Isis has been waiting for her chance to receive surgery. Each year, she returns to the Tegucigalpa mission, her warm, vivacious spirit welcomed with hugs and smiles from the local and international volunteers who have come to know her so well. But each year, our volunteers are forced to turn her away — that maybe next year it will be her turn, that perhaps we will find the resources to treat another deserving child who needs more complicated surgical care.

As I flew home and recounted the hundreds of lives we were able to transform over the previous week, I couldn’t let go of the image of this beautiful girl clinging to her mother as we told them, yet again, that she would not receive surgery. Her enduring hope, each year traveling hours on end only to be told we couldn’t provide surgery, moved me. I knew I had to do something.

When I arrived at our global headquarters on Monday, I shared Isis’s story with several staff members who were equally as moved by her courage. We spent hours talking with others within the organization to determine what it would take to help her — to give her the specialized surgery she so desperately needs. There is hope.

Inspired, we decided to reach out to fellow staff members — Operation Smile employees — and challenge them to raise $10,000 in honor of this strong girl. The response has been overwhelming. But I know that the Operation Smile family isn’t just limited to those who work here — each and every supporter, volunteer and donor plays an integral part of what we are able to do here.

Isis and children like her need us. They have nowhere else to turn. If you would like to hep us raise funds for Isis and other children at risk of being left behind, please donate here

I am unbelievably blessed to share my experiences with you — to see first-hand the work we’re able to do because of Operation Smile supporters. I can only hope that next year, when we return to Tegucigalpa, Isis will be there with a new smile, a new face, and a new life. 

Tags:   Our Blog, From the Field, Donor Stories, Our Team, Latin America & Carribean