Like Luis, Ronaldo Morales also received his eighth surgery. A 15-year-old Cuban, Ronaldo had his first surgery performed in his native country when he was a year old.
Born with cleft lip and palate, this year was his first at Day of Smiles. The Felix Varela High School student found out about the charitable event through school and found the free procedure too good to pass up.
”It made me better than before,” Ronaldo said. “Before my scar was wider. Now it’s barely there.”
Taunted his entire life, Ronaldo was once nicknamed ‘cut-lip” by his peers, a name he no longer thinks belongs to him.
Ronaldo’s experience has motivated him to pursue a career as a paramedic, having gotten to know them well in Cuba when being transferred between cities for operations.
Dr. Andres Bustillo, the surgeon who performed Ronaldo’s palate and upper lip revision pro bono, thought the procedure went well, despite difficulties inherent in revision surgery.
”You can rearrange anything any way you want it, but you’re always fighting scarring and contraction you really have no control of,” Bustillo said.
He is one of the many doctors who take part in Day of Smiles to give children a chance at life-changing procedures that would otherwise be too expensive. Like Levin, who is currently in Mongolia assisting children with cleft palate, Bustillo travels to South America in search for poverty-stricken patients.
”It’s nice to give back and people are really grateful,” Bustillo said. “It’s a different kind of gratefulness. To them, this is the world. To me, I get t