GREENWICH, Conn., May 9, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Imagine strangers staring at your children because of the way they look. For Lisa Lori, it's a reality. "Everywhere we went people stared. The insensitivity of complete strangers was boundless," said Lori.
Her three boys, Zack (18), Luke (16), and Griffin (15) were born with physical challenges. "I remember when my first son was born. I was so happy. Then, the doctor told us the news. It was catastrophic - like a punch. I was scared because when you have a child with a facial anomaly you don't know how the world is going to treat him," Lori added.
All three boys were born with a rare condition known as facial paralysis, "that means they don't have use of the muscles in their face, which impacts their speech, as well as their ability to smile, eat, and close their mouth," Lori explained.
Fear set-in. "The medical community was perplexed. We were told we'd have to learn to live with it," Lori recalled.
Then, determination. "As a parent, I didn't want my boys sitting in a corner not engaging in life. It took eight years, but we found a surgeon in Toronto who performs muscle transplant surgeries for children with nerve or muscle damage in the face," said Lori. "The boys have had over 20 surgeries collectively and we've seen remarkable improvement over the years," she added.
Armed with hope, Lori wanted to give back to other children born with a facial condition. Through the plastic surgeon, Lori found out about Operation Smile, an international non-profit that provides free surgeries to children and young adults born with a cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial difference. "I first held a fundraiser for the organization a decade ago, and we raised $85,000," said Lori. "It's something we now do annually for Operation Smile because we know how life-changing surgery can be," she added.
With thousands of global medical volunteers and care centers in 36 countries, Operation Smile creates solutions that deliver safe surgery to people where it's needed most. The organization envisions a future where health and dignity are improved through safe surgery. It's a vision that resonates with Lori and her boys. "Operation Smile has been great and impactful for us. We've gone on medical missions and it helps us realize that we have our challenges but there are people with more challenges than us and it gives my family perspective," said Lori.
To support children undergoing surgery on an Operation Smile medical mission - Lori partnered with a friend to design three teddy bears that children can have to comfort them before and after surgery. The Three Little Bears are named after Lori's sons.
Happiness now replaces heartache as Zack, Luke and Griffin are thriving and living normal productive lives. Lori has a message for all moms, "We're all trying to do the best we can. You can't beat yourself up if everything isn't perfect. I think doing your best as a mother is the mark, we should all strive to achieve."
About Operation Smile: Operation Smile has provided hundreds of thousands of safe surgeries for those born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial conditions. With more than three decades of expertise, Operation Smile creates solutions that deliver free surgery to people where it's needed most. As one of the largest medical volunteer-based nonprofits, Operation Smile has mobilized thousands of medical volunteers from a wide range of medical specialties from more than 80 countries. Operation Smile engages public-private partnerships to advance health care delivery, train local medical professionals to provide surgical care for patients in their communities, donate crucial medical equipment and supplies, and increase access to surgical care so that everyone living with cleft is treated. Visit www.operationsmile.org, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.
Nicole Bell, Director of Public Relations
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SOURCE Operation Smile