Creating Smiles, Improving Lives

Austin Smiles Puebla Trip 10/2/14

Day 6: Part A

A story about an old man… “We get to go tell this guy that he just won the lottery.”

Samuel Mitl Lozano is a 75-year-old man from the pueblo of San Sabastian Tepalcatepec in San Pedro, Cholula. He’s been married for 52 years and has five children. Samuel was born with a cleft lip.

On Monday, Samuel brought his wife to Hospital General de Cholula to seek medical attention for her knee. Traveling with them was their granddaughter, Yanelly, who assists them when dealing with the hospital’s administration.

Our very own, Martha Mashburn, was walking through the hospital when she noticed the old man’s face. Martha quickly and excitedly reached out to our team to inquire about him as another potential patient.

After a quick assessment with the medical team, we received approval to bring Samuel up to take a look and see if he’d qualify for the surgery. Was he healthy enough? Would he be interested? Would we have enough time? There was nothing else to do, except try and see if this could really happen.

Our translator and Austin Smiles Board of Director, Deborah Kirk, and non-medical volunteer Anthony Gomez headed down to find Samuel. Deborah and Anthony introduced themselves and informed Samuel that “We’re with a group of plastic surgeons from Austin, TX and would like to know if you’d like to get your lip fixed?” Samuel responded, “Si, si!”

The funny thing is, Samuel didn’t initially believe Deborah and Anthony and even thought that he may be part of a big joke or reality TV show. It wasn’t until the team escorted him upstairs to be evaluated that he understood, we were very serious. Three of our doctors, Dr. T, Dr. Barnes, and Dr. Cullington examined the 75-year-old man.

Samuel had only taken over-the-counter-medicine for colds about three times in his entire life. He had hardly ever even seen a doctor; once being in his 20’s when he had inquired about having his lip repaired. Back then there were no “free services,” and the price tag for the procedure was too hefty for him, so he lost interest and never inquired again. Samuel doesn’t drink or smoke and currently works in the fields hand-cutting grass and raising cows.

Other then an elevated blood pressure that Samuel explains is caused by his excitement when realizing we weren’t kidding, he was in solid health. “Physiologically he doesn’t show his age,” Dr. T said. We got Samuel into the system to address his blood pressure and put him on the list as the last surgery we’d perform on this trip to Puebla.

They say that adults are much easier to repair since their lips are larger then children’s. There are risks such as infection, but they’re minor enough to keep going. Typically when you find people over the age of 50 with cleft lip, they’ve lost hope, don’t think it’s a good options, or just don’t take the time… this probably would have been Samuel’s case.

Samuel headed back to surgery at 11:37AM today. To be continued…



1 in 700 children are born with a cleft lip or palate

$250 covers the cost of one life-changing surgery

150 volunteers annually will change a child’s life forever

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