Guatemalan Girl with Rare Facial Deformity Travels to Dallas for Surgery
A very special baby girl who captured the hearts of staff and volunteers of a Dallas based non-profit will fly with her mother to Dallas on July 5 for the second of many corrective surgeries.
Sofia was born with a bilateral Tessier type III facial cleft. This is a very rare congenital deformity that involves more than just the lips and upper jaw (as in a cleft lip or cleft palate) The clefts in little Sofia’s face extend to her cheeks and her eye sockets. The deformity is significant, and she has only one functioning eye.
Upon her birth in Guatemala City in October of 2017, hospital staff swept newborn Sofia away from the delivery room and kept her at the hospital for one month. Abandonments of deformed children are not unheard in the developing world, but Sofia’s parents were not about to desert their new baby. Love for their child and faith led them reclaim their child and to search for help. For six months local doctors told the mother that there was nothing they could do to improve the baby’s condition
But in March of 2018, Sofia’s parents heard that there was a group of International doctors providing free healthcare at a clinic close to their home in the small community of Tecpán. Those doctors were part of an International Esperanza Project (IEP) Team. IEP is a non-profit based in Dallas with the mission of inspiring hope in people in the developing world through healthcare, community development and education. Sofia’s parents took Sofia to the clinic. Fate would have it that Dr. Jorge Corona, an ophthalmologist specializing in oculoplastic and orbital surgery, was a part of the IEP team. He examined Sofia and immediately called a colleague in Dallas. Dr. Raul Barcelo is an aesthetic and reconstructive facial surgeon who regularly treats cleft lips and palates as well as the more severe facial clefts. That very day Dr. Barcelo and Dr. Corona had a video conference call with the young family that changed the trajectory of Sofia’s life.
Six months later, Dr. Barcelo and Dr. Corona, as part of IEP’s largest volunteer group, Team Hope, travelled to Guatemala to perform the first successful surgery on baby Sofia. In this surgery, the double cleft lip was repaired, greatly improving the baby’s appearance. Work was done on the eyelids to protect her right seeing eye and to prepare for the placement of a prosthetic in her left socket in the future.
Volunteers and staff will never forget that emotional day. Sofia and her parents have become a part of the IEP family. They even asked IEP’s Director of Guatemala Operations, Keshy de Godoy, and her husband to be Sofia’s godparents.
Since the next surgery will be more complicated, the decision was made to bring Sofia and her mother to Dallas for the procedure. Sofia’s family has very few resources, but with the generosity of Dr. Barcelo and his team, American Airlines, Medical City Children’s Hospital, and other donors, International Esperanza Project is able to provide this life changing procedure free of charge.
The surgery is scheduled for July 9 th . It will not be little Sofia’s last surgery. She faces many difficult procedures as she grows. But, thanks to fate and the skills of many volunteers, this little Guatemalan girl will be able to have a better life.