As a corn farmer living in the remote countryside of China, Qi Xiu spent her life surrounded by the love of her husband, three beautiful children and eight grandchildren.
But the happiness and love she felt couldn’t relieve the pain of living 66 years with an unrepaired cleft condition.
Throughout her life, Qi Xiu never knew there were more people living with cleft lip and cleft palate.
She always believed she was alone.
And since she didn’t know that surgery to repair her cleft lip was possible, Qi Xiu accepted that the decades of teasing and harmful treatment she received would continue for the rest of her life.
Qi Xiu couldn’t even walk her grandchildren to school without people from her community staring and laughing at her as they passed by them.
But after years of living in sadness, Qi Xiu made a choice that eventually led to a life-changing opportunity.
Moving to Bijie City not only helped Qi Xiu to be closer to her family, it also brought much-needed access to health care within walking distance. She now lives just a few minutes away from a hospital.
Once she was living in town, Qi Xiu learned about Operation Smile China and its mission to provide free, safe surgery to those living with cleft conditions around the world.
There was a medical program scheduled to take place in Bijie City in just a few days later.
This was the first time Qi Xiu discovered that, through a surgery that can last as few as 45 minutes, it was possible to repair her cleft lip that she had lived with for so long.
Qi Xiu took a chance and traveled to the program site with her son, daughter-in-law and daughter, not knowing if she would pass the comprehensive health evaluation and be cleared for surgery.
But the very next day, medical volunteers told Qi Xiu that she’d been placed on the surgical schedule.
From that moment on, it seemed like Qi Xiu never stopped smiling.
Throughout her pre-surgical evaluations, she never showed any sign that she was scared or nervous. After 66 years, she just felt ready to finally have her new smile.
While resting in her room and admiring her new smile, she expressed her thanks to the medical volunteers who cared for her throughout her experience. Most of all, Qi Xiu dreamt of one thing after surgery.
“I am looking forward to taking my grandchildren to school,” she said. ”Now, no one will laugh at me.”
One year later, Qi Xiu is living out her dream.
She is now all smiles, and it’s easy to see that she is truly happy. Her husband, who always loved her and thought she was beautiful, was ecstatic that his wife returned home healthy after her surgery.
Now, Qi Xiu freely goes out in public in the city without worrying about strangers staring or mocking her. She takes her grandchildren to school and just enjoys life.
In thanking Operation Smile for their care, she said simply, “I love my smile, nobody laughs at me anymore.”