Patient Stories

The Commitment: Don Alex's Story

It was March 24, 2012, early in the morning. Alex Guerrero and his wife, Adilia, had chosen to give birth at a private clinic for the first time. This would be their fourth child, a baby boy.


When his second child, Georgina, was born with a facial deformity, Mtengeni never hesitated to show his love and acceptance of his daughter. He felt it was God’s will that his baby was born with a cleft lip and it was his role as her father to care for her as best he could, despite her condition. Mtengeni was no stranger to caring for someone with a physical impairment. Bernadette, his wife and Georgina’s mother, was deaf, and Mtengeni pledged to care for and support his daughter just as he had always done for his wife.


Since 21-year-old Virgilio’s severe bilateral cleft lip was repaired during Operation Smile’s August 2015 medical mission to Puebla, Mexico; her son has experienced a dramatic transformation which extends well beyond his surgical result.


Shocked and heartbroken when her baby Valeska was born with a cleft lip, Zorida received more discouraging news within the first moments of her daughter’s life. No sooner than learning that surgery was possible to repair Valeska’s cleft lip, the young Nicaraguan mother was told by doctors that the procedure would be far too expensive for her and Valeska’s father to afford. The couple was informed that more affordable, possibly even free, surgical treatments could be found in Managua — a six-hour bus trip from their hometown.

Britany's Care Centre Connection

When Britany was 4 months old, she received surgery to repair her cleft lip at Hospital San Felipe in Tegucigalpa. However, the surgery was not done by a plastic surgeon and the stitches soon broke open, leaving her with an open wound. Hope was not lost. “I was told about Operation Smile and that they had a specialist team that could do this at their centre. I went there and they gave her a medical evaluation. When she was 10 months old, her lip was repaired again,”

"He is going to be a beautiful boy"

Greth Liseth was devastated when her son, Erick Manuel was born. She had never seen anything like a cleft lip or cleft palate, and nobody could explain why her "Manuelito" was born like that. She couldn’t breastfeed him, and she felt so helpless that she couldn’t feel love for her child.

Enok's Path

Enok remembers being jeered, mocked, chased by packs of children and having people recoil in disgust at his cleft lip. While his memories echo the stories of thousands of Operation Smile patients – most young children – Enok already endured a lifetime of torment when he received surgery at 25 years old.

After 34 years, Moroccan man receives surgery

Abdellah works in a port, loading packing containers. Though he has a steady job, he has never had the means for surgery to repair his cleft lip, nor did he know a solution was available.

On a mission to spread smiles

From the moment Niño entered the hospital, he let his personality shine through the language barrier as he connected with the medical volunteers. He even helped the other children laugh, easing their nerves around being in a new place and fears of surgery.

In Paraguay, an ultrasound raises alarm

During a routine ultrasound in her final trimester of pregnancy, Karen discovered that her baby would be born with a facial deformity.


“Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.”

- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-founder and President