Jessica Gutierrez: Journey To Save A Life

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Jessica Gutierrez (above, center) tells us about her visit to see local Smile Train medical partners in Buenos Aires, Argentina and a young mother who made a strong impression on her.

Buenos Aires, Argentina – I am an Associate, Direct Marketing at Smile Train and every day I see pictures of the wonderful new smiles of our patients. I am always in awe of the great work our partner surgeons and medical staff do every day of the year. Recently, I was given the opportunity to visit some of Smile Train’s local in-country partners in Argentina to see first-hand the impact one simple surgery has on not only a child, but their whole family. When I arrived at Asociación PIEL, I noticed a woman looking very nervous staring at her baby. I went over and the anxious mother, Giuliana, introduced herself and her baby, Juan Ignacio. He was a vivacious and happy little boy, and he chuckled every time I waved at him. Giuliana told me how scared and shocked she was when she first realized her child had been born with a cleft. She had never seen anyone with a cleft before and didn’t know what to do. As soon as she heard about Asociación PIEL she knew she had to make the trip to have her son treated.

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Giuliana lives almost two hours from Buenos Aires, she traveled with her mother-in-law on a bus to our partner surgeon, Dr. Bennun, to treat Juan Ignacio. I happened to meet her the day before Juan Ignacio’s surgery, which helped me understand why she seemed extra nervous. Giuliana felt better when we spoke to another mother whose son had been successfully treated by Dr. Bennun and was visiting for follow-up care. The following day, I talked to Giuliana right before Juan Ignacio’s surgery. She was nervous but also anxious to see her son after the surgery. She had heard other parents say that they didn’t even recognize their child after surgery and she couldn’t wait to see his new smile!

I left the hospital that day knowing that not only Juan Ignacio’s life, but also Giuliana’s was about to change. She now has the confidence that Juan Ignacio will grow and develop just like any other child and will have the opportunity to live a full life. The experience of meeting families like Juan Ignacio’s showed me just how powerful the work Smile Train and our partners are doing. I recently sent his mother some of the pictures I took while I was in Buenos Aires and I can’t wait to hear about how Juan Ignacio is doing – smiling a lot I bet!

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Uma: A different kind of patient

Here’s something a little different that’s just too cute not to share!

The president of our Argentinian partner, Rioja Foundation, Dr. Anibal Ojeda had a little dog named Uma who was born with a cleft lip.

After donating his time and effort to a surgery he wrote us to suggest (in jest) Smile Train change its motto to, “no child – or poodle – turned away.”

It’s so great to see a patient doing so well after a successful surgery!