Bay Area Mother Gives back to Children Born with Cleft Conditions Just Like her Own Son

Press Release
Posted 11/18/2019

Lisa Lalanne recently traveled to Mahajanga, Madagascar as a student sponsor with Operation Smile, an international medical non-profit that provides free surgery to children and young adults born with cleft lip and cleft palate. Lalanne said this trip was full of emotions because Carter, Lalanne’s 7-year-old son, was born with a cleft palate, which is a tear in the roof of the mouth.

“I was amazed because we were able to sit in the operating room to observe a surgery, and watching the medical team provide life-changing surgery to children, just like mine, was very emotional,” said Lalanne. “It was incredible to watch so many medical professionals volunteering their time to help so many children. The team provided 114 free surgeries during the mission,” added Lalanne.

As Lalanne took part in the medical mission, she couldn’t help but think of the days when she was sitting in the hospital with her son before he went into surgery for his cleft palate. As a speech-language pathologist, Lalanne knew when her son was born the hard road they faced, yet she said that is not the case for many parents whose child is born with a cleft condition.

“I sat with many parents to try to ease their worries. I would tell them about Carter and show them pictures of him today, six years after surgery.  I would share with them that with time it gets better. This surgery would allow their child to eat better and allow him to speak more clearly,” said Lalanne.  

Lalanne volunteered as the student sponsor for three Operation Smile student club members. She helped mentor the high school students from Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to support them as they gave educational presentations on different health modules such as hands-only cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), dental care, burn care, handwashing and nutrition.

“It was so great to watch my students educate patients and their families and see them so interested to learn about topics like hands-only CPR or how to brush their teeth properly,” said Lalanne. “It was incredibly touching to me to be with a group of students that want to be part of an organization that helps kids just like mine, but who don’t have the same access to medical care we do” added Lalanne.

As World Kindness Day approaches, Lalanne wants to encourage more students to be kind to one another and help others. Students can spread kindness by joining an Operation Smile student club in their school and help children around the world born with cleft conditions.