Brooke Wayne's Story
Brooke Wayne, U-Voice Student Volunteer
She’s pointing at me. I can tell. I’ve seen that look in a child’s eyes before. When kids see my cleft lip scar, they usually ask a range of questions.“What happened to your nose? Did it hurt? Did you fall? That looks weird.”
Some point, some stare. Adults, too. They whisper to their own children, just within earshot, but not far enough – “You are lucky, don’t forget”— in an attempt to teach children appreciation of their own good health, but perhaps there are better ways. Their voices echo in my head. People are curious and they have a right to be, but I always wished more people understood. My scar means more than what it appears to be.
I was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, which in a way has made my first Operation Smile medical mission a sort of safe haven – a place where everyone understands. As I walk the halls on the second day of medical exams in Mexico, anxious to meet more patients and families, I see her. She’s pointing at me. I can tell.
"I was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate, which in a way has made my first Operation Smile medical mission a sort of safe haven – a place where everyone understands," said Brooke.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see a small girl, no more than 10 years old. Her dark, long hair is gently pulled back, and she has a soft look in her eyes – curiosity. I’ve seen it before.
As she approaches me, I kneel down next to her, our eyes meet, she smiles. At this height, I can see she has a cleft lip scar as well, which makes me smile back. She tells me her name is Rosio, and quickly points to her lip, and then mine. “Si,” I say, and nod. Yes, me too.
She asks in Spanish, “How old were you when you had your surgery?”
In broken Spanish, I tell her my first surgery was when I was an infant. I take out a picture of me as a baby, which I have carried with me here to show patients I can relate to them. She holds the photo close to her face, scanning it, comparing the open cleft she sees on my young face to the scar she sees now.
There is a connection – an unspoken but understood bond of a shared journey. But still, I am unsure what she might say to me. She stares. She’s thinking something. I can tell.
“Que linda,” Rosio says. You’re beautiful.
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