The first boy is Khian, age 3. He came to us hating to look into the mirror because of how he looked. Other kids had begun to use the term that in his local dialect means “cut lip.” Today before he was discharged home his grandmother, who cares for him, was in tears. One of the outreach staff went over to check in on her. Her tears were from gratitude. This morning Khian looked in the mirror and for the first time, he smiled.
“We have no money,” began his grandmother, “and you people leave your families to come here and help us. You will always be in my heart. You have given us a lifetime’s gift. This is Christmas!” she finished through more tears as those of us gathered around her wiped our own eyes.
The photos of the young man are of Edgardo, 15. He has touched me in ways no other person could simply by holding a hanky to cover his face. He was so ashamed of how he looks he always hides his face. His mother, out of a desire to not be rude for the nice cameraman, finally forced him to lower his hand to reveal his lifelong deformity, the source of visibly emotional pain. We communicated without speaking. His pain became triggered something in me. I had to leave to try to suppress my tears. Suddenly I felt like such a little person. You see I share Edgardo’s lack of desire to be in front of the camera lens. But no deformity holds power of me. I think I look too fat. I don’t like the double chin that the camera endlessly accentuates. My worries seemed so microscopic in comparison to this teen’s that it tore at my heart. We have a connection that neither one of us fully understands, but when he sees me now, he smiles. Today one of our incredibly compassionate nurses gave him a mask so he didn’t have to hold his bandana to his face. I smiled at him and said “After today, no more mask.” This afternoon I will be donning a similar mask as I join him in the OR to document what for sure will be a life-changing transformation.
Our slogan says “Mending Faces,” but really it is a life we mend. We may not be one of the skilled artisans performing surgery. We may not be handing the surgeons their instruments or providing amazing direct care to the patients. Sometimes it’s simply running to the office to grab snacks and water for the OR staff, driving all over the barangays to find people, taking histories, or amusing small children. Each one of us touches lives and in return is touched so much more deeply. More deeply than I could’ve anticipated or imagined. More blessed than I ever thought possible.
Posted by Rev. Talon S. Windwalker, NHD, visual aide/community outreach