Plodiv, Bulgaria – All too often, children born with clefts are abandoned or left at orphanages. Many Smile Train partners have developed strong relationships with staff at local orphanages so that the children that in their care are able to receive free cleft lip and palate surgery. Smile Train patients have been adopted from orphanages throughout the world and received a chance for a life with a new, loving family. For the parents that leave their children with orphanages, the decision is never easy and they may think about it for every day the rest of their lives. For Anastassiya, it was no different.
Anastassiya knows all too well the hardships the world can thrust upon those who are different: she’s deaf. So when she gave birth to her only child, Denis, she was shocked to see that he was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, but overjoyed to see her beautiful son trying to smile at her. As a single mother who could not afford to pay for a surgery, Anastassiya was afraid that being deaf would put Denis in danger as she wouldn’t be able to hear his cries. She was scared that for a child who needed more attention and special care, there was the real possibility that because of her own disability, she would miss being there for Denis when he needed her most. She envisioned horrible scenarios where she was asleep, and unable to hear, his cries would go unanswered.
Despite the overwhelming desire to be with her child, after many hesitations, Anastassiya was forced by the circumstances to make the hardest decision of her life–to leave Denis with an orphanage.
She did her research and settled on leaving her son with an orphanage in the town of Sliven that she learned had a high adoption rate. When she arrived in Sliven, the staff of the orphanage told her of the Smile Train program at the Medical University (ALA) in Plovdiv. The orphanage helped her get to the hospital and to help alleviate her fears, offered Anastassiya a unique proposition. While Denis recovered from his surgery, he could stay at the orphanage where the staff could watch over him.
Denis received Smile Train sponsored free cleft lip surgery and returned to the orphanage. For the next five months, Anastassiya spent every minute she could with him, knowing that her deafness would not put him at risk while she slept. Denis recently underwent a second Smile Train surgery to fix his cleft palate and this time, Anastassiya was able to take him home confident in their new life together.