Seven year old Daisy smiles brightly at school one year after Operation Smile repaired her cleft lip in Mexico.
Daisy’s smile is unforgettable. Many team members, who were all volunteering for Operation Smile’s third mission in San Cristobal, remembered her and absolutely adored this little girl who is a sweet as her name.
When we traveled to her small village outside of San Cristobal to see how her life had changed one year after surgery, we arrived at her school.
Daisy sat in the classroom studying Spanish, focused on a workbook. The people in the area speak Tzotzil, a local indigenous dialect. Spanish is Daisy’s second language.
At seven years old, besides being rather small for her age, nothing indicates the hardships she went through as a young child.
As we entered her classroom, we caught her attention - provoking a wide, beautiful smile that showed the gaps her baby teeth had left, making her even more captivating. Despite Daisy’s glowing smile, she was a little shy about having visitors.
Awhile after we arrived, recess began and the children all poured out of their classrooms and eagerly grabbed basketballs and began to play. Daisy, unfazed by the number of boys playing, or her traditional long woolen skirt, jumped right in. After recess, Daisy took us to her home, just some meters up the road.
Daisy is the fourth child of seven, but she was the only one of her family born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. Her mother, Rosa Hernandez-Hernandez, struck me as an incredibly strong woman, and nothing, not even the surprise that came when Daisy was born, could shake her.
She works day at home, taking care of her children, while her husband, Lorenzo Hernandez-Lopez, works in the field tending corn. While we were there, Daisy’s older sister Maria worked on the loom outside while her younger brothers, Felix and Marcos, played in the dirt and took turns on the toy bike.
Before Daisy’s birth, neither Rosa nor her husband Lorenzo had ever seen someone with a cleft lip or cleft palate. They had no idea why Daisy was born with a unilateral cleft and it wasn’t until she was six years old that they learned it could be surgically fixed.
Despite that, Rosa said that she was calm and had faith. Sure enough, someone came to inform them that a group had arrived and could help Daisy.
Without knowing more, they spent 28 pesos of their hard earned money to take Daisy to what was Operation Smile’s first medical mission in San Cristobal. It was there that for the first time Rosa saw other families going through the same thing. She finally realized, “I am not alone.”
That week, with incredible bravery, she and Lorenzo let the surgeons take Daisy back to the operating room. A mere 45 minutes later, Daisy’s cleft lip had been completely and beautifully repaired.
Before her surgery, Daisy was laughed at and teased at school. That this bright, beautiful girl didn’t have friends was unfathomable.
However, Daisy’s history was occasionally evident in her habit of hiding her mouth behind her hands. Even a year later, when Daisy felt particularly shy, her hands would clasp together and cover the thin scar on the left side of her mouth, hiding the only indication of her surgery.
Now though, Daisy and her family are much happier and her beautiful smile is there for anyone to see. She has more friends, and the chance to fulfill her mother’s wish to stay in school and choose her future.
Daisy’s life was now completely normal; one of a typical seven year old growing up in Southern Mexico. But it was because of her family’s faith and the work of Operation Smile that helped to give Daisy a second chance in life and for her to share her beautiful new smile with the world.
Read more stories from the Mar 14–24, 2012 medical mission in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico >>
Tags: Patient Stories, Latin America & Carribean, Mexico