What is Operation Smile and How to Help
October 3, 2018
Operation Smile is a charity that provides free surgeries to children whose parents are unable to afford the necessary operations for their child. These surgeries mostly evolve around birth defects, such as a cleft lip.
Cleft lips can severely impact a child’s chance to live. The risk of possible infections leading to illness can be raised drastically. Many children who are unable to receive help through an operation suffer for years until contracting a fatal illness.
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Armand has lived with a cleft lip and cleft palate for 9 years. In spite of that, he has the most contagious laugh and loves playing soccer with his friends. It is difficult to understand what he is saying because his palate has severely effected his language development. This week, he finally received surgery to repair his cleft lip and our speech pathologists began working on improving his speech. He traveled to our mission site with his aunt. They learned about Operation Smile through one of our patient advocates, a parent of a patient who has previously received surgery and now volunteers as a new-patient recruiter. 📷 @tsigaud
Shockingly, up to 93 percent of children who are born with a cleft lip will not be able to survive to see their twentieth birthdays. This percentage is only increasing as the children are exposed to more illnesses and disease.
Anabela Ebsworth (‘19) says, “My mom has told me about the Smile Campaign before. A lot of kids are able to receive the help they need and I believe they should continue with their objective so they can help those whose parents may not have been able to afford the surgery.”
Operation Smile was originally founded in 1982 by plastic surgeon Dr. William P. Magee Jr. and his wife, a nurse and social worker, Kathy. They decided to start the Smile Campaign when they took a trip to the Philippines with a group of other medical employees.
Co-founder Kathy Magee says, “People pushed their babies at us. They tugged at our sleeves with tears in their eyes and begged us to help their children.” The trip to the Philippines encouraged the couple to start a charity to help these underprivileged children.
Hannah Rodriguez (19’) says, “My mom is a doctor at Tampa General and my stepdad, John, is a doctor too, so I am always hearing stories from them about children they meet in the hospital. Both of them say they always wish they could do more to help the kids. I think the Smile Campaign should continue what their mission is because birth defects in children rates are raising every year.”
While performing these life-saving surgeries, safety is a top priority. All potential patients must undergo a safety check, making sure the surgery will only help the patient, not harm them. These comprehensive health exams help surgeons look deeper into a patient’s health history, and render them healthy enough to safely undergo surgery.
The Smile Campaign over recent years has become more known through media coverage by celebrities. For example, celebrities such as John Stamos and Jessica Simpson have donated much of their own money to the charity. Simpson also became Operation Smile’s international youth ambassador, raising up to four million dollars through press coverage on behalf of Smile.
With $240, a child’s cleft lip can be repaired in 45 minutes. However, Operation Smile is a charity so the campaign requires donations of time and money to continue their mission of helping underprivileged kids receive the necessary surgeries.