Gabriela's difficult life had become even more complicated with the birth of Leao. Her son arrived with a cleft lip and cleft palate without prior warning from her doctors.
"I nearly died crying," she said.
A week later, Gabriela's partner abandoned her.
Unable to stop crying, living alone in a room that she paid for with a job in a restaurant, Gabriela decided that their story would not end there.
She first began by finding help for her son, getting a special bottle in Iquitos to feed him. Then, she reached out to an acquaintance in Lima, Mrs. Fortunato. Mrs. Fortunato offered Gabriela room and board in exchange for working in the restaurant she ran from her home. Gabriela did not wait long before embarking with Leao. The trip, by boat and by bus, took days.
A few months later, already in Lima, Gabriela made contact with Operation Smile Peru and regained hope once her son underwent a comprehensive medical examination. Soon, Leao received his cleft lip surgery. During the surgical program, the volunteer doctors took the time to explain Leao's cleft condition to Gabriela and what the next interventions would be.
Gabriela stayed in Lima at Mrs. Fortunato's house to be able to take her son for the necessary medical check-ups. A few months later, Leao underwent surgery to repair his cleft palate.
Now Leao is a happy and active child, who never stops playing.
And Gabriela, remembering all her efforts, told Operation Smile: “Thank you for changing my life. Before the surgery, every time I looked at his face I wanted to cry. I never thought that I would see my son happy or that I would be happy again.”