Operation Smile - Sew a Smile Bag for a Child

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

That moment still stands out to me so very clearly. It was as if drums were beating in my ears and tumblers rolled over and over in my stomach. I held my 2 year old son in my arms as I sat on that cold gurney with starched white sheets fitted tight. My little guy struggled to get away, crying and complaining loudly to the one person he felt could "save" him from this scary place and these scary people. Still I held him, my grip tight to help, and to comfort. I just wanted him to know I loved him so. I held his little body as the nurse put the sleeping gas to his little white nose and mouth. The mask smelled like bubble gum she told me. He was two. He'd never tasted bubble gum before. I sat on that thin mattress on metal, trembling, with my first-born in my lap as I tried to hold back my tears. What was I doing? Could I ever let go and hand him over? Then I felt his protest subside and his body go limp with unwanted rest. His eyes rolled closed and he let go.

I gave him to the nurses that day. I laid him down on those wrinkled white sheets and gave him to them. I could hear the Lord whisper to me that whatever happened, his little soul would be forever safe. I slipped my hand into my husband's soft hand and we walked slowly to the waiting room.

My mind turned over and over. Feelings of guilt, fear, and sadness swirled around and around like a washing machine with no cycle end. Was this right? Would the surgery fix it? Surgery, surgery!! Would he come back to us the same little boy, eager to please, lover of all vehicles with four tires, and excellent dancer to any music that comes upon his ears. Would this be the end of all the invasive testing, the poking and prodding, the forced medicines, the scary x-ray machines, the specialists, the insurance issues, and the waiting rooms? Or would this be the beginning?

That was 4 years ago. He is six now. He has a small scar on his belly where he had that surgery to fix his grade V kidney reflux. The procedure was three hours long. It was routine. It worked.

We were lucky. We had family support. And we had medical insurance and the money to afford this potentially life-changing surgery. In this very world we live in, others aren't so lucky. Some children suffer congenital defects that gravely affect their lives. And though corrective surgery is routine, and it works, there isn't money to get it. Operation Smile and its medical partners are working to change this for children with cleft palates around the globe.

Operation Smile is a charity organization for children – donate non profit

Operation Smile is an international, non governmental organization that works to bring together caring medical professionals and the children needing surgery to correct cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities. They estimate every three minutes, somewhere, a new baby is born with a cleft palate that leaves them often unable to eat, speak, or socialize. Many times, these babies are shunned, or rejected, and too often, parents are unable to afford a simple surgery that can be life-changing.

Since 1982, Operation Smile, with the help of a dedicated team of medical professionals, has helped enable more than 2 million patient evaluations and over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities.

In addition to monetary donations, Operation Smile is seeking hand sewn Smile Bags. Volunteers fill these lovely little bags with toys and goodies for the children who are recovering from their surgery. Smile bags should be 12"X14", made of sturdy cotton fabric, and have a drawstring closure at the top. There is even a bag pattern with photos and clear sewing instructions right on the website.

When you are ready to donate your Smile Bags, fill out their Service Project Inventory Sheet and send it in with your bag donation to:
Operation Smile
Attn: WAREHOUSE/Service Project
6435 Tidewater Drive
Norfolk, VA 23509, USA

In addition to Smile Bags, you can use your sewing talent to make other needed items. Operation Smile also accepts no-no arm bandsblankets, quilts and afghans, and Smile Dolls. Check their website for specific instructions before you make your donation. Set up your sewing machine, get involved and give a child a smile.
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I know how these parents feel when they are offered the choice of surgery. Grateful...and so very scared. I know how these parents feel while waiting to hear if their child is okay. And I know how the same parents feel many years later. Still grateful. I am sure their child is grateful too. I am grateful to share this giving opportunity with you.


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