Two-year-old Angeline Sanipa gently wakes from anesthesia and opens her eyes to a small handful of family and medical volunteers circled around her bed.
As she gains focus and begins to see familiar faces, she attempts to raise her arm and wave. But realizing that she’s still a bit too weak from her cleft lip surgery, she instead curls her tiny fingers toward her palm, extending her thumb upward, all in an effort to give us comfort. Those of us surrounding her bed enthusiastically return her gesture of success.
Tessie Sanipa rests her forehead to her daughter’s, relieved that she is out of surgery and doing well. Tessie never imagined this day for her daughter. When Angeline was just two months old, Tessie found her crying, screaming, covered in ants and left without any clothes or blanket in an empty pig pen. “I was so scared, this tiny baby thrown away. She was left to die,” said Tessie, who has three other children ranging in age from 14 to 22. “I picked her up and took her to the hospital. She drank five bottles immediately. Since then, she’s my daughter. I adopted her.”
Jovelito, Tessie’s husband, said he was away for work when he came home to see the new addition to his family. “Tessie, her heart is so big. I’m very happy, very happy for my daughter, very happy for surgery,” he said, pausing to keep back tears.
Tessie and Jovelito hope to bring Angeline back to the next Operation Smile medical mission in Cebu for surgery on her cleft palate. She and Jovelito said it was fate that Angeline came into their family before it was too late, and that Operation Smile operated on their daughter.
"I’m not her blood father, but I love her like my blood,” Jovelito said. “This is our baby. She’s a survivor.”
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