To what extent will ICSF go to help its patients? Just ask Luzielle. I first met Luzielle in March 2009 when she was three. I will never forget our first meeting. ICSF was conducting its first mission to Cadiz, Philippines, and it was our first day at the hospital. We were in the middle of a long day of patient evaluations. Nearly all patients had clefts of some kind.

Lucy (before)

Lucy before surgery.

As I sat at my desk finishing the paperwork on a patient, I looked up to see a mother standing in front of me—and then I looked down on the floor. There, crouched in front of me, in sort of a squatting anthropoid-type stance, was a little girl.

I had been seeing severe cleft deformities all day, and the little girl down on the floor had one of the worst I had seen so far. A two-sided cleft (bilateral cleft lip) with the center bone-gum complex jutting forward and up, allowing me to also see her gaping cleft palate. What caught my attention, however, was the child’s unusual stance.

I picked her up and put her in her mother’s lap to get a better look. I stared at my first-ever encounter with a congenital absence of the femur (the long, upper bone of the leg). I then became distracted by the little girl’s hands and feet, all displaying partial or complete absence of fingers and toes. “Not a normal appendage on her body—life is not fair,” I thought. I looked at the child’s name on the chart: Luzielle. “We’ll do what we can to even the balance for Lucy!” I thought.

The first step in evening the balance for Lucy came the following week when the ICSF team corrected her cleft lip. Four and a half hours is what it took to do the best job possible. In many instances a defect like Lucy’s would be treated hurriedly by a volunteer organization. I was glad Lucy had come to ICSF.

Lucy (after)

Lucy after cleft lip and cleft palate surgery.

In March 2011 we treated Lucy’s cleft palate, again taking well over three hours. For a good result, meaning the palate functions well after surgery, time is needed to carefully reorient the abnormal musculature while maintaining good blood flow to the tissues followed by a meticulous repair. Lucy’s ability to speak normally was at stake! Four months later, ICSF transported Lucy and her mother to another island (Dipolog) so she could undergo intensive, week-long speech therapy at ICSF’s speech pathology mission headed by ICSF volunteer speech pathologist Dr. Theresa Snelling. The reports for Lucy’s speech abilities and progress are “excellent,” according to Dr. Snelling. Lucy is scheduled again for speech therapy in July 2012 by ICSF.

Next came the leg. For nearly two years I had scratched my head wondering what, if anything, could be done for Lucy’s leg. Several discussions with pediatric orthopedic specialists were not fruitful. And then, I remembered that I had a friend in Pakistan who made artificial limbs, Dr. Feroz Ismail.

I contacted Dr. Feroz with Lucy’s measurements and other vital information. On my next trip to Pakistan I was presented with a beautiful little leg prosthesis for Lucy to walk on. In November 2011 I had the privilege of fitting the new leg onto Lucy and helping her to walk upright for the first time ever!

Lucy and Elma

Lucy walking upright for the first time in her life, being helped by ICSF poster child Elma Valenzuela.

As I watched Lucy walk upright I thought, “Maybe life isn’t exactly fair, but we, with the help of our supporters are doing all we can to even the balance for Lucy and many other children like her.”

Thank you, ICSF’s donors, for helping us ensure that Lucy—and ‘everyone—was born to smile.’

Design by Melissa Ventura, Development by Drew Bertola and Walter Martin.