On August 11, 2017, Sheyla is born in Mojinte, a village of almost 500 people in the highlands of the Bolivian Andes. Her mother Jhesica was only 16 years old at the time. Jhesica only realized that something was wrong with Sheyla when she held her daughter in her arms for the first time: A large cleft extended from the left upper lip to the nose. The young mother then learns from the doctors that Sheyla also has a cleft palate. Sheyla has received three surgeries since then. At the time of the first operation (for the lip and nose), Sheyla was nine months old, and the palate surgery was performed in October 2018. The last operation, to correct the nose, was carried out in May 2019.
When Jhesica recounts her story, it is hard to believe that she is only 18 years old. The young woman has been through a lot. Because of her pregnancy, the then 16-year-old had to drop out of school one year before graduation. The child’s father deserts her before the birth. Fortunately, her family stands with her during this difficult time. From her mother, she learns that there is a history of clefts in the family on the paternal side. Jhesica’s grandmother had twins, her aunt two sons with cleft lip and palate. All four died shortly after birth. Jhesica is shocked, and scared that her little daughter will suffer the same fate. She knows from the doctors that the malformation can be treated by surgery. But not in Mojinte, the family’s home village. There is only a small health center there, without cleft surgeons. Besides that, the family could never afford the treatment.
It was a happy coincidence that Jhesica became aware of our offer of free cleft treatment, which turned the fate of her little girl for the better. Today Sheyla is a happy, confident girl – the sunshine of the whole family.
And Sheyla’s story has another happy ending: During Sheyla’s treatments, Sheyla’s mother and our psychologist David got to know each other – and fell in love! Today they are a couple and Sheyla now has a little sister.