May 18, 2015
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Yealing started walking at 5 a.m. this morning to get to a bus to take an hour ride to reach the Operation Smile medical mission site in Estelí, Nicaragua. She had a distant cousin with a cleft lip, but she never thought her own child would be born with a cleft.
Yealing said she was in total shock when she saw her daughter, Marianna, for the first time. The doctor told her not to worry, that “it could be fixed.” But up until now, Yealing didn’t know there were doctors who could help her daughter get surgery.
When Marianna was born, Yealing couldn’t feed her. She worried as she watched her baby become more and more malnourished because she couldn’t properly breastfeed.
Yealing traveled to Managua five times with Marianna to go to an Operation Smile clinic where the medical professionals there taught her how to feed her baby to gain the proper nutrients and strength she needed before the possibility of surgery. Each time she went, it was an all-day trip that drained the family’s small income. Yealing has been waiting and waiting to hear the message that Operation Smile would be coming to Estelí.
“I knew there had to be a solution,” Yealing said.
It’s been difficult being in public with her daughter. “People say, ‘Why don’t you get her fixed?’ And that makes me feel bad,” Yealing said.
It’s been heartbreaking for Yealing as she has watched her baby get thinner and sicker because of her cleft lip and cleft palate. She had been sick for a full month before showing up at the clinic. Yealing has been praying that she would be healthy enough to be chosen for surgery.
Yealing doesn’t know why her daughter was born with a cleft. She said someone told her the trees around the house are bad luck and have caused the baby to get sicker.
She has also been worried about money. Her husband is a farmer harvesting beans and corns and makes just enough to feed his family. Just taking the bus costs her $2 round trip and affording surgery was out of the question.
Today at the medical mission site in Estelí, Marianna is wearing clothes and shoes the neighbors bought for her. They want her to look her best when the doctors examine her.
After today, Yealing will learn if Marianna is well enough to receive surgery. Even so, she thanks Operation Smile for helping her feed Marianna, without that help, she says, she doesn’t know if Marianna would have survived not being able to feed.
Tags: Our Blog, From the Field, Patient Stories, Latin America & Caribbean, Nicaragua