Smile Train and Me, a Surgeon’s Story

Dr. Li Kezhu, a plastic surgeon from Smile Train partner hospital 1st Hospital of China Medical University, poses with a happy 12-year-old patient who is about to leave the hospital after her life-changing cleft surgery.

Dr. Li Kezhu, a plastic surgeon from Smile Train partner hospital 1st Hospital of China Medical University, poses with a happy 12-year-old patient who is about to leave the hospital after her life-changing cleft surgery.

Dr. Li Kezhu, a plastic surgeon from Smile Train partner hospital 1st Hospital of China Medical University, shares her experiences as a Smile Train doctor.

Shenyang, China — As I usually do each day, I was at the hospital waiting for cleft patients to come for our Smile Train program. A couple wearing simple clothing walked in with a 12-year-old girl following behind them with her head bent down and looking very embarrassed — the girl had a cleft.

The couple had come on a special trip from afar when they heard that there was even such a program being offered like Smile Train. After making the necessary arrangements for the girl’s surgery, the father pulled me aside and whispered “Doctor, is Smile Train really free? Is that true?” I smiled and said, “Don’t worry, it’s really free.” The father felt relieved after he heard that. Finally his face showed a trace of a smile.

My team examined the girl to identify if she was in good physical condition to undergo surgery. Then the team of physicians formulated a detailed operation scheme. Soon the girl, accompanied by her parents, was sent from the examination room into the operating room. In order to shorten operation time and reduce the risk of injury, I was absorbed in doing the operation carefully. The assistant surgeon and nurse worked with me closely. The operation was very smooth and completed according to the preoperative discussion program. After she awoke from anesthesia, I took the girl out of the operation room. Right away, her parents rushed to their child. I can still clearly see the tears in their eyes and I know they were tears of joy.

After the surgery, our doctors made visits to the recovery ward to see the girl’s condition and patiently answered all kinds of questions from the parents. Being only 12 years old, their daughter could not stand pain and sometimes would not cooperate with us. She cried when we would change the dressing (bandages) on her lip so we had to think of a way to distract her while at the same time quickly and gently handling the operation wound. Our team was always bathed in sweat after the end of her dressing changes, but no one ever complained about helping this patient.

After being under the great care of doctors and nurses the girl was finally ready to be discharged. With a grateful smile the couple and their daughter said goodbye to us. They kept saying, “Thank you! Thank you for Smile Train!” in an excited voice. Whenever we are able to see Smile Train make a child’s future better, one after another, we also feel very pleased.

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