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Mario* is one of thousands of children worldwide who benefit from AmeriCares Medical Outreach Program. AmeriCares donates medicines and medical supplies to doctors providing charitable care to impoverished men, women and children. Here Dr. Alan Patterson shares the story of Mario, a young boy with a life-threatening birth defect. AmeriCares supported the surgical team who treated Mario, and many other children like him, with anesthesia, antibiotics and other supplies needed to successfully perform the operations.
On the day of Mario’s birth, his mother Daniela* anxiously awaited his arrival. This would be her first child. But upon seeing her son, she was crestfallen and terribly worried for him. Mario was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate – a disfiguring, dangerous hole inside the baby’s mouth between his nose and the roof of his mouth.
Daniela had never seen anything like this. “The first thought that went through my head was, ‘How will my child eat?'” she said.
Although Daniela knew she loved her child, she wanted to disappear – a sign of severe depression. Mario’s grandmother comforted her daughter with prayers. She also told her Mario needed his mother – and pledged she would be there for her daughter and grandson.
While in the hospital, Mario’s mom was promised that this type of deformity could be fixed with surgery. With renewed hope, Daniela returned home to take care of her young family. Sadly, when she returned to the local hospital to inquire about the surgery, she was turned away because the doctors were on strike.
Daniela was heartbroken, but determined to get help for Mario. She sought help from a social worker and was eventually referred to the Hirsche Smiles Foundation. A team of surgeons were on their way to Guatemala and specialized in operating on children suffering from birth defects like her son’s.
“Some of the children that we treat are ‘throw away’ children. Their parents take one look at them at birth, see their deformity and discard them on the street or leave them at a church or orphanage,” said Dr. Alan Patterson of the Hirsche Smiles Foundation. “It truly breaks your heart. We do what we can to help them but it is a huge problem throughout the world.”
Mario’s first operation repaired his lip. The surgical team was successful and his family regained hope.
Mario has since had his palate fixed and is undergoing speech therapy, helping him to eat, breathe and speak. Mario is now a happy little boy with a beautiful smile.
*names changed to protect patient privacy