The Florida Family’s Story
The Florida Family’s Story starts 26 years ago when Norayda and Eric’s first child, Jan, was born with a broken mouth. Norayda, a practical lady, immediately started to look for a doctor who could help her beautiful son smile and soon found Dr. Geslani, a plastic surgeon at a nearby hospital who repaired Jan’s lip when he was just 2 months old but told her that Jan needed to be older to have his palate surgery.
In 1988 Norayda and Eric learned that an organisation named Operation Smile was coming to a hospital nearby for the very first time. Norayda brought Jan to the very first mission where she was amazed to see how many other families were there hoping that the Operation Smile doctors would be able to help their children too. Norayda was overcome with relief when Jan was chosen for surgery and with his palate repaired he returned home with his smile finally complete.
Sadly, even though Jan spoke perfectly and his lip repair was barely noticeable he was teased and physically bullied throughout Elementary and High School. Jan, not wanting to upset his mother never told her about the bullying and Norayda only learned of her son’s pain and sadness during our interview.
Fortunately the worst of the teasing and bullying came to an end when Jan left school and started a degree in Hospitality Management. During his second year of college Jan met his girlfriend, Theresa,also studying Hospitality Management and the beautiful couple have been together ever since. Jan graduated in 2009 but is still looking for a position in his chosen career.
Last year Jan and Theresa learned that they were expecting their first child and with the knowledge that clefts can be hereditary they decided to have an ultrasound when Theresa was 6 months pregnant. Sadly the news was not good and they were told that the baby would be born with a cleft lip and palate. Theresa had little time to prepare herself as Peter Jan was born 6 weeks premature. To their great relief the ultrasound had been partially wrong and Peter Jan had a cleft lip only.
In August of this year Theresa saw on television that an Operation Smile team would be in Silay in November. Finally the wait was over and the family along with Norayda, known as La Lola (grandmother) came to the hospital on the appointed day. Theresa could not believe how many other families were waiting but remained hopeful that Peter Jan would be selected for surgery.
To her immense joy Peter Jan was scheduled and once again Jan, Theresa, Norayda, and Peter Jan came to the hospital. While they were waiting to be admitted, Dr. Richard Lewandowski came to talk to Jan and explain to him that while his first lip repair looked good it could be improved with a simple surgery. At first Jan was hesitant as Peter Jan being his first concern; however, Dr. Lewandowski explained that Peter Jan would receive his surgery first and the next day Jan could be admitted for his. Jan was finally persuaded and surgery scheduled.
On the last day of the mission the family returned once more to the hospital this time with new smiles on both Jan and Peter Jan’s faces and joy in their hearts. To complete an amazing week for this very special family Peter Jan sat up on his own for the first time while at the hospital and once Jan’s lip is completely healed Operation Smile’s partner in Silay, the H.O.P.E. Foundation, will use all their resources to help Jan find meaningful employment.