“Ugly” wasn’t her true identity

“I’m sorry if my daughter hides her face from the camera. She often gets called ‘ugly,’” Christyn’s mother, Arlyn, shared.

On November 5th, 2018, empty chairs filled the ground-floor lobby at Tebow CURE Hospital, waiting for our usual mix of orthopedic clinic patients along with cleft lip and palate patients attending our cleft clinic. We had bubbles ready to be blown, and the toys were set out. Our storytellers made sure that our batteries were charged and our cameras were ready to capture the start of cleft camp. Soon, we witnessed an overflow of patients and their families, caregivers, and siblings who tagged along to support the healing journey of their loved ones. That morning, we met with a total of 36 cleft lip and palate clinic patients

One of the patients waiting was Christyn.

Christyn gave us a rare, shy smile after we spent some time with her in the ward.

We make a point to spend time getting to know our patients and their families, but there are times when I do not know how to communicate with our patients who come from all over the island, and so I remember some wise words once shared with me: “Smile when you don’t know what to say.”

A smile is indeed a universal language; our staff speaks it, and it comes right back to us from our patients and their families.

But what if someone refused to smile because “ugly” has become her identity?

Arlyn told us more about her daughter Christyn: “My daughter is beautiful. She’s a good kid and loves to dance. Her favorite dance move is a combination of a twirl where she eventually lands on a split! She could hardly wait to go to school, and she asks us to buy a pen and pencil so she can draw––it’s her favorite thing to do! My hope for Christyn is to be able to go to school and not get bullied by anybody.”

Thanks to our partners at Free to Smile, 28 screened patients had surgery. The Free to Smile Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and sustaining comprehensive, high-quality surgical and dental services for poor and underprivileged children and adolescents. The team from the United States––Scott, Jason, Stavan, Dave, and Riley––worked together to perform cleft lip and palate surgeries, transforming deformities into brand new smiles.

Christyn was one of the patients whose smile was transformed through surgery.

The team from Free to Smile––Jason Dashow (from Alaska), Stavan Patel (from Louisiana), Dave Wilson and Riley Kitzmiller (both from Michigan) with Scott Hanhart (from Ohio)
Dr. Dave and Nurse Riley from Free to Smile worked together with our Tebow CURE OR staff as to transform Christyn’s smile.
Christyn, before and after her surgery

Thanks to the organization and hard work put in by our social worker, Joy, the cleft camp produced beautiful results. Christyn’s newly transformed smile is a testament to its success. Her smile not only reflects her true beauty but will become a language of love and kindness, especially to those who once called her “ugly.”


Photo of the Hope Kim Doit

About the Author:

Hope Kim Doit serves as a CURE Storyteller in the Philippines. She enjoys quality time with kids, memorable selfies, and a delicious serving of coffee-flavored gelato. She was first involved with CURE U, CURE's University program, at the University of Florida, where she acquired her bachelor’s degree in Health Science. She wants to live a life full of adventure on a daily basis, but also thinks that talking to people is an adventure in itself. Hope Kim was born two hours away from the Tebow CURE Hospital and couldn’t be more excited to be back in the Philippines, capturing every moment so she can share it with the rest of the world.

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