Cesar was born on June 27, 2021, with a unilateral cleft lip and cleft palate. Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Partner for Surgery is there to help this rural Guatemalan family and ensure that their son was able to get the nutrition he needs as he awaits his cleft repair surgery.
When an infant is born with a cleft lip or palate, it’s important to repair the cleft as soon as possible so that the child can get proper nutrition. This is often difficult in places like rural Guatemala. Today we’re sharing Cesar’s story. Cesar’s parents, Margarita and Genaro, are a young couple, and despite their difficult financial situation, they were thrilled to learn that they were expecting their first child. Margarita gave birth to Cesar in June 2021 in Aldea Paapa, San Juan Chamelco, Alta Verapez.
The family’s joy soon turned to concern for their child.
“We were told our boy was born with a condition that required special care and if he was not able to breastfeed, he would need infant formula, which was a little expensive. I panicked,” Genaro said. “My wife and I were already struggling with food insecurity, so how was I going to buy powder milk for my son? For two months, I felt anxious, sad, and confused. I was having such a hard time trying to feed my family and to buy milk for Cesar. Margarita and I were having only one meal a day.”
One morning, someone from their village suggested that they go to the community health center because the nurse from the Ministry of Health was bringing Covid vaccines once a week for the elderly.
On September 1, 2021, Genaro and his family walked to the community health center. Although only people in need of vaccination were allowed, his family was permitted to enter.
“When my turn came, I was desperately explaining to the nurse about my son’s special condition and he asked my wife to bring Cesar in. As soon as he saw him, he said, ‘Calm down. There is an organization called Compañero para Cirugia that has helped thousands of children like yours,'” Genaro recalled.
Compañero para Cirugia, or CPC, is Partner for Surgery Guatemala.
Genaro said that the nurse assured him that, not only would Partner for Surgery/CPC provide Cesar’s necessary surgery, but they would also provide monthly infant formula to make sure Cesar remained nourished and healthy until he received his surgery. The nurse also told Genaro that, because of the pandemic, there were hundreds of patients waiting for surgery, so Genaro and his family would have to be patient in waiting for Cesar’s procedure.
The nurse then called Health Promoter Mayra Chen and let Genaro speak with her to determine when she could come to the family’s home to begin the process.
“We talked for about 15 minutes and Doña Mayra said she was coming to visit us the next day. I couldn’t believe it. It was a miracle, and at that moment I knew we were going to be fine,” Genaro said. “Happily, Mayra [has come] to our home every month since then. Compañero para Cirugia and our Health Promoter have become our guardian angels. We have no words to express how grateful we are and how blessed we feel.”
Genaro works as a construction worker, farmer, or anything he can do to bring in money to put food on the table. Still, he only earns about Q500 a month, which is the equivalent to $65 US dollars. He says that every night he prays and asks God to bless every person who helps Compañero para Cirugia or Partner for Surgery Guatemala because they have saved not only Cesar’s life, but his and Margarita’s as well.
“Before CPC came into our lives, we would have to go either to my parents or Margarita’s family and beg for food, and sometimes it was demeaning,” Genaro admitted.
“Compañero para Cirugia and their donors have dignified our lives and we are so grateful.”
To learn more about how Partner for Surgery helps rural Guatemalan families to provide proper nutrition for their children as they await cleft repair surgery, please visit our Cleft Infant Nutrition Program page.