Meet Our Patients: Managua, Nicaragua

Patient Stories

Meet Sofía and Johana

Sofía and her daughter, Johana, pose for a photo during Operation Smile Nicaragua's September 2019 medical mission in Managua. Photo: Jimmy Guadamuz.
Sofía and her daughter, Johana, pose for a photo during Operation Smile Nicaragua's September 2019 medical mission in Managua. Photo: Jimmy Guadamuz.

Living in Rosita – a small town in northeastern Nicaragua – Sofía and her 1-year-old daughter, Johana, were nearly 300 miles away from Operation Smile Nicaragua’s medical mission site in Managua.

But for Sofía, the distance was insignificant compared to the love she had for Johana and the commitment she had for getting her daughter the care that she needed to repair her cleft lip.

The course of Sofía's life changed instantly on the day that Johana was born. But even after seeing Johana's cleft, she remained hopeful. Unlike many parents of children with cleft conditions, Sofía knew that possible surgical solutions existed.

Like Johana, Sofía was born with a cleft lip and palate.

Ten years before arriving with Johana at Operation Smile Nicaragua’s 25th anniversary medical mission, Sofía received surgery from medical professionals (unaffiliated with Operation Smile) to repair her cleft lip.

However, safe surgical options for her cleft palate eluded Sofía, and she continued to live each day with an unrepaired cleft. But even though Sofía knew that she deserved to receive surgery for herself, her thoughts were focused on Johana and the future she wished for her. For a year, she hoped that the solution Johana needed would be found.

Then Sofía learned about Operation Smile Nicaragua.

The organization not only provides high-quality surgical care to children like Johana, but it provides free transportation for potential patients traveling far distances from their homes to reach the mission.

Operation Smile Nicaragua provided Sofía, Johana and many more potential patients with free transportation to Managua.

After their journey, Johana and Sofía received their comprehensive health screenings.

More than 70 international and local volunteers representing 14 countries from around the world came together and provided comprehensive health evaluations for 180 potential patients.

Of that total, 122 people received life-changing care, including Johana and Sofía.  

Although Sofía was nervous in the moments leading up to their surgeries, she spoke confidently about the Operation Smile Nicaragua volunteers and said that she always trusted the hands of those who were going to care for her and her daughter.

“We know that the people who are involved in the process are capable,” she said.

During the mission, Johana received a new smile, and medical volunteers successfully performed the cleft palate surgery on Sofía that she'd waited 10 years to receive.  

Sofía’s husband, Olgemar, said that despite the adversities – especially economic – that they faced together as a family, their goals were achieved.

Olgemar thanked Operation Smile Nicaragua for fulfilling his family’s dream.

“Without that support, (Sofía and Johana) would not have had the operations because we are unable to afford them,” Olgemar said. “I’m very happy about that.”