A once exciting ultrasound appointment quickly became memorable in a way that Naira never imagined.
The anticipation was beginning to build as her due date got closer. Naira and her husband, Fernando, were eager for the arrival of their third child in just a few short months. But when the couple attended their seven-month ultrasound, hope and happiness suddenly turned into panic.
Their unborn son, Fredy, had a cleft condition.
Doctors quickly reassured the expecting parents that cleft conditions were common and can be repaired through surgery. While this calmed Naira enormously, she was still concerned for her baby and his future. Seeing the family’s deepening worry, their doctor told them about a local organization devoted to helping children just like Fredy.
Operation Smile Brazil provides free surgery and comprehensive cleft care to families like theirs, and at that moment, a team of highly trained medical volunteers was preparing to travel to Santarem later in the year.
With a few more months left in her pregnancy, all Naira could do was wait.
Despite receiving news about Operation Smile, there was still a small hope in Naira’s heart that the ultrasound was wrong. But when it finally came time to hold Fredy in her arms, Naira looked at his smile for the first time and loved him unconditionally.
The wait for the surgical program in Santarem seemed endless, but neighbors and family members accepted Fredy and treated the family with kindness and respect. They supported Naira as the Operation Smile Brazil program approached.
Naira and Fernando focused on keeping their son as healthy as possible. But Fredy’s cleft condition made it challenging for him to breastfeed, and the family began depending on formula to help him receive proper nutrition. Even with this additional financial burden placed on her family, Naira willingly took on the additional sacrifice to ensure Fredy would arrive at the program with the health and strength he would need to undergo cleft surgery.
When Fredy was 8 months old, the Operation Smile local team arrived in Santarem.
Fredy, Naira and Fernando settled into a taxi for their four-hour ride to the program site. After arriving, Naira was amazed to see so many other families like hers. Although she and Fredy were accepted by their family and neighbors, this was the first time she realized that there were people who truly understood the challenges her family had faced.
They progressed through screening day as Fredy was examined by anesthesiologists, nurses, pediatricians and other medical volunteers.
The volunteer medical team deemed Fredy healthy enough and placed him on the surgical schedule.
Every fear and every obstacle the family had endured together was instantly in the past when Naira and Fernando were told their son would receive a new smile.
Fredy’s future was changed forever with a surgery that can take as few as 45 minutes.
After returning home to their renewed life, Fernando and Naira were eager for their community to see Fredy’s new smile. Naira showed neighbors a photo of his smile before his operation so they could see the beautiful difference that just one surgery can make.
She knew when Fredy was born that her family never would have been able to afford surgery. So in Naira’s words, Operation Smile gave her the solution needed for her son to live a happier, healthier life.
“His surgery was the best gift ever,” Naira said.
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Our promise of improving health and dignity during the COVID-19 pandemic endures. Once again, we’re providing surgery and in-person care while taking stringent measures to keep families safe. Hope is on the horizon. And we remain focused on what cleft care makes possible for children, helping them to better breathe, eat, speak and live with confidence.