From hurt to healing, Efren's emotional change

Patient Stories
Posted 7/6/2015

At just 9 years old, Efren had so much hurt in his heart. He would lash out in school, fight with his classmates and come home in tears almost daily, his father recalls.

But now, a year later, Efren’s whole outlook has changed – he’s happier, more confident and has made friends at school. Efren’s father says his son would still be angry and aggressive if it weren’t for Operation Smile.

Last year, Efren received surgery on his cleft lip in Cebu, Philippines during the Gift of Smile multi-site medical mission. Just a few weeks ago, he and his family returned to the Adventist Hospital in Cebu in hopes of receiving surgery to close his cleft palate. 

“He can’t stop looking at himself in the mirror, he enjoys school now, no one bullies him and he plays with the other children,” Efren’s mother said. “When he gets this next surgery, he will not be different anymore, he will be understood in school.”

Even as Efren’s lip is repaired, he still has difficulty with speech because of the severity of his cleft palate. Without the help of Operation Smile, Efren’s mother and father said would not be able to afford surgery, much less two surgeries, for their son.

Efren’s father is a fisherman and struggles to make enough to feed his family of nine. The family still lives in a makeshift shelter after their home was destroyed when Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Philippines in 2013. The older children work with their father, instead of going to school, to help supplement the family income. But Efren's father wants something different for Efren. He want's Efren go go after his dreams.

With his cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries, Efren hopes to continue his education, go to college and become a teacher. “His dreams can come true now,” Efren’s father said. “He has big dreams, but couldn’t do it without surgery, without Operation Smile.”