When Cruz saw her daughter for the first time, she felt helpless and lost. With no family support and no money to pay for expensive doctors, Cruz thought there wasn't much she could do for her newborn daughter, Nicole.
A few weeks after Nicole was born, the village priest noticed Nicole's cleft lip. He had seen another child with a cleft condition before and knew about Operation Smile. He approached Cruz about her baby and noticed that Nicole was terribly frail and malnourished.
Nicole's cleft was preventing her from feeding normally, and she wasn't getting the nutrients she needed that were so critical to her at such a young age. Cruz didn't know what to do to get her baby to feed properly. The priest saw the dire situation and immediately brought Cruz and Nicole to Operation Smile in the Dominican Republic.
Nicole was too young and too malnourished for surgery, but Operation Smile medical volunteers spent time with Cruz teaching her how to feed her daughter. The volunteers made sure Cruz could feed Nicole on her own and saw Nicole gaining healthy weight before they sent the mother and daughter back home with instructions to keep Nicole healthy and well-fed so she can be a candidate for surgery at the next Operation Smile medical mission in August.
With renewed hope, Cruz knew what she had to do for her daughter. But as a single parent, she didn't know how she would get to the medical mission in Santo Domingo, five hours from her village.
Cruz waited several months for August to come and the priest continued to check on Nicole's health, making sure she was gaining proper weight. But when time came for the medical mission, Cruz didn't have the money to make the journey.
The priest saw Nicole's need and sent them to the medical mission with a nun and the church vehicle. In their village, about three to five nuns act as community health workers for the nearby villages, and they have accompanied patients to Operation Smile medical missions in the past.
Once at the medical mission, Cruz was overwhelmed with how many other children suffer from cleft lip like her daughter. She was so thankful that the priest saw her and offered his guidance and thankful for the Operation Smile medical volunteers who helped her daughter's health and new smile.