Two Rare Things: One Baby’s Condition and a Doctor in Peru Who Could Treat Her

Most of us have seen photos of babies with a cleft lip or palate, a congenital condition in which the babies’ upper lips or the roof of their mouths are cleft or split. But on a recent charitable surgery trip to Peru, Dr. Ryan Brown and his team of volunteer surgeons were amazed to meet Illa,* a baby girl with cleft cheeks.  

“This condition occurs in less than one in 80,000 births,” says Dr. Brown. The deep horizontal groove across the girl’s face belied a split in the underlying muscles, which left 8-month-old Illa with a constant frown. Using medicine and medical supplies donated by AmeriCares, the team was able to do what no other doctor in Peru could: give the little girl a smile.

The Road to the Surgery

Illa’s parents had traveled all over Peru but could find no doctor with the expertise to provide the surgery their daughter needed. Dr. Brown’s team met Illa and her family at Hospital Sergio Bernales their first day in Peru last November.

With the support of AmeriCares, the team from Healing the Children Rocky Mountains surgically repaired Illa’s cleft. Without the surgery, Illa could have trouble speaking and would likely suffer socially because she couldn't react to others with a smile. Over two years, AmeriCares has donated $32,000 of medicine to Healing the Children Rocky Mountains, including the anesthesia, antibiotics and surgical supplies such as syringes that are critical for quality medical care. On this trip alone, Dr. Brown’s team performed 67 surgeries, assisted by local medical staff.

“Without the most important supplies from AmeriCares, we never could have performed any surgeries,” says Dr. Brown. “The supplies donated made it possible for us to provide surgery in an operating room similar to the United States.” The support given to Dr. Brown’s team was just part of the $48 million in medicine and supplies AmeriCares Medical Outreach donated to more than 1,200 volunteer medical teams last year.

 *name changed