“The first day I saw my baby I was scared. And then I was ashamed,” said Marcela Silva Franco, looking at the ground and scuffing her sandal in the sun-baked earth. She wasn't ashamed of her newborn, she said, she was ashamed of herself.
Delivered by his uncle, Oscar came into this world a quiet little boy who barely made a whimper.
“They gave him to me and I noticed his lip first. Then I noticed the inside of his mouth. It was open to his nose. But what I noticed most was that he was so still.”
Oscar is now 9 years old. It's difficult to reconcile the image of the newborn with the young boy he is now. Eating great spoonfuls of rice while trying to explain what he wants to be when he grows up, Oscar is your average little boy - scuffed knees, naughty grin and playful energy.
Although traumatized by her reaction to Oscar’s appearance at birth, Marcela says she feels privileged that her brother was the doctor at her side and could immediately explain explain to her son's cleft lip and cleft palate would mean for his future. Her brother explained there is a solution and both Oscar's cleft lip and cleft palate could be corrected, and she needn’t sell her land to pay for the care he needed.
Marcela said her brother expalined to her there is an organization, Operation Smile, and they would help.
Over the next decade, mother and son travelled from Chinandega to Betania to Managua to attend a total of six Operation Smile medical missions in Nicaragua. It has been a long road from Oscar’s first surgery at just six months of age in 2004, to his last examination, both here in Chinandega.
But Marcela says it has not been too difficult. “Every time we come, we see people we know. They smile at Oscar and play with him and are kind. I know that they care about him and want him to live a good life. There are many people in life that don’t get the opportunity we have been given. We are so grateful for that. We are so grateful for Operation Smile's efforts.”
How has Oscar’s life changed over the years? “Oscar was afraid to go to school, but now he loves to study. The children used to tease him. They laughed and called him ugly names. But now he looks like everyone else in his class. He looks better," Marcela said.
“Oscar was afraid to go to school, but now he loves to study. The children used to tease him. They laughed and called him ugly names. But now he looks like everyone else in his class. He looks better,” said Marcela.
And what does Oscar want to be when he grows up? “A carpenter”, he says, “like my dad. My dad is very good.” Marcela laughs at her son's response. “His dad is gifted,” she admits. “He makes beautiful things. Oscar wants to make beautiful things, too. It is the way we can give back.”
Oscar continues to see Operation Smile dental professionals in Managua for orthodontic care and follow up.
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