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From the Field China

Meet Our Patients: China

Our promise of improving health and dignity during the COVID-19 pandemic endures. We're helping front-line health workers stay safe, nourished and empowered to better serve their patients by providing life-saving supplies and equipment, as well as remote training to bolster their response. We’re also providing nutritional assistance, hygiene kits and virtual health services to support people and their health needs so they can thrive. If you can, when you can, help us keep our promise to care for children and create hope for tomorrow.

Meet Yuanlin

Yuanlin, 8 years old. Photo: Merry Gou.

Eight-year-old Yuanlin became one of 47 patients who received life-changing surgery during the Zhen Xiong, China, medical mission that took place in September.

Born with congenital heart disease, cleft lip and cleft palate, Yuanlin was born a fighter.

She attended an Operation Smile China mission in 2016, but due to her heart condition, she wasn’t cleared for surgery. However, after receiving the care she needed to repair her heart, Yuanlin and her family were ready to try again.

Like many children born with cleft palate, Yuanlin struggles to eat, oftentimes choking on her food. But this didn’t stop her from showing her outgoing personality throughout the mission, talking to the volunteers and drawing pictures for the volunteer nurses and pediatrician to show her appreciation.

Yuanlin’s family was hopeful for a different outcome than from the mission back in 2016, because with Yuanlin approaching the age of when she should start school, her parents wanted nothing more than for her to receive surgery to avoid bullying and hurtful teasing.

“Our biggest wish is that Yuanlin will do well and find a good job in the future, because we can't accompany her forever,” her parents said. “No matter how hard it is, we will try our best to fix her lip and palate.”

Yuanlin passed her comprehensive health evaluation and was scheduled for the second day of surgery.

With her new smile, Yuanlin is ready for school.

Meet Czanczan

Czanczan, 10 months old. Photo: Kunlin Bai.

For months, safe surgery evaded 10-month-old Czanczan as factors from the pandemic repeatedly diverted him away from a new smile.

Shocked on the day of their son's birth, Czanczan's parents never expected to have a child with a cleft condition because there was no history of the condition in their family.

The uncertainty and fear they felt began to fade into anticipation after learning about Operation Smile China shortly following Czanczan's birth. That hope continued to deepen once they heard of an upcoming medical mission taking place in July earlier this year. 

However, due to the virus rapidly spreading throughout the country at the time, the mission was cancelled, and Czanczan's family was left devastated.

Czanczan's dad never gave up, frequently calling Operation Smile China's team for more information on when mission activity would resume. 

It was months later when Czanczan's family learned surgery was resuming and that there was an upcoming August mission in Zhaotong.

The family was prepared to make the long journey until they learned that the possibility of surgery had once again escaped them: The hospital was only allowing patients from the city of Zhaotong to receive care in order to try and safeguard all patients, families, volunteers and staff.

Disappointed but more determined than ever before, Czanczan's parents patiently waited to attend the next mission happening in September in Zhenxiong.

After Czanczan and his family completed the six-hour journey to screening, yet another barrier prevented Czanczan from receiving care.

Czanczan developed a cold and wasn't deemed healthy enough by medical volunteers to undergo surgery.

For the third time, an unforeseen obstacle stood in the way of Czanczan's brighter future.

Czanczan recovered from his illness as his family prepared to make the trek to a mission in Lin Yi. Despite the multiple attempts at surgery, his family knew that they'd never stop trying.

“No matter how far it is, even if I need to go up to sky, as long as my baby could get the safe and high-quality treatment, I will go,” Czanczan's dad said.

Following the 12-hour trip, Czanczan and his parents arrived two days prior to the start of the mission with hopes that Czanczan wouldn't get sick and miss out on the opportunity to receive care.

This time, Czanczan passed his comprehensive health evaluation and was cleared for his long-awaited surgery.

Looking at his son, Czanczan's dad shared that he was satisfied with the result and felt immense relief that his son, “Could grow up as a kid who has the most beautiful smile.”

Out of the 87 patients who were screened alongside Czanczan, 25 received safe surgeries and brighter futures.

Help us keep our promise to more patients like Czanczan and Yuanlin amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Your support today means we can help them through these uncertain times and provide them with the surgery they deserve when it's safe to resume our work around the world.

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It takes as little as $240 and as few as 45 minutes to provide life-changing surgery and a bright, beautiful new smile to a waiting child.