Guest blog post by Scott Behmer, Smile Network trekker and volunteer
Uziel’s parents are a bit of an unlikely couple, but their shared love for their son was clear. Dads weren’t scarce on registration day, but were far out numbered by moms, aunts and grandmothers. I enjoyed watching Uziel lay in his dad’s arms, looking cozy in a baby blue argyle sweater vest. He got his great head of hair from his dad, and I made sure all of the volunteers noticed Uziel’s long eyelashes, too. Lady killer.
I learned that Uziel had both a cleft lip and palate, but only one would be treated in surgery. In the future his palate could be addressed, but not on this mission.
On Monday morning at 8am I found Uziel and his mom in the ward where they had spent the night. Only one parent was allowed on the floor so dad would have to make the long wait outside. His mom was stressed, tired and concerned, not quite understanding how the day would go. I used the Google Translation app to answer questions as best I could. I tried to explain that although I was wearing scrubs, I was not a doctor, but a volunteer who helped raise funds for Uziel’s surgery. Mom offered a kind smile and, “Gracias.” Thanks wasn’t necessary.
To pass the time and give her a break, I scooped up her son in my arms and sang songs to him. “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves is a personal favorite of mine and he seemed to dig it, too. Finally the O.R. was ready and Mom cried likely from a mix of anxiety and exhaustion. No one could blame her. We hugged and I wanted to tell her that I wasn’t going to let Uziel out of my sight, but words failed and I choked up a bit. I was committed to seeing him through this.
Dr. Andy allowed us to watch throughout the 40 min surgery. Music filled the air as he beautifully re-sculpted skin and muscle. Just has he pulled the stitches tight to join Uziel’s lip Dr. Andy began to sing a classic by the band America, “Magic. You can have anything that you desire.” I got so caught up that I sang along. Had Uziel been awake, I think he would have liked it. It was truly a blessed moment.
At only 6 months, Uziel is too young to realize he was born with a birth defect and in developing countries a cleft is sometimes considered a curse. One look into his eyes and no one would ever think Uziel was anything but special. His is a life that will now be brighter thanks to the efforts of Smile Network International and teams of volunteers from across the world. Perhaps one day when he asks about his scar he’ll hear stories about kind people who just wanted to help him be the best he can be.