Upon Gabriel’s birth, instead of an eruption of cheers as with their first two sons, Sandra and Freddy were met with silence. Finally, after a long pause, they were told that Gabriel had “a little something in his mouth and nose”—that little something was a complete bilateral cleft lip and palate.
An adult and pediatric cardiac surgeon in the Dominican Republic, Freddy began researching cleft and cleft treatment centers. He was soon convinced of Nasal Alveolar Molding (NAM) as the best treatment procedure, and the team at NYU’s Institute of Reconstructive Plastic Surgery as the best NAM treatment team. Met with an honest, enthusiastic “Congratulations on your new baby!” from Shelley Cohen upon calling NYU, the coordinating began. However, the logistics of the situation soon became a disheartening reality: a mere month to obtain US Citizenship and expedited passport for Gabriel; biweekly flights to New York from the Dominican Republic for 6 months, the majority of which in winter; two young boys at home with one parent during these trips. Nearly impossible, it seemed.
After an all-night discussion of more local and practical options, the decision was made to give Gabriel the best care possible, by the best cleft team; Gabriel’s first appointment with the NYU Cleft Team was arranged for September 19, 2012. So began the journey of mother and newborn, navigating thousands of miles of international travel, for the initial NAM instillation and biweekly NAM adjustments. myFace’s Family Apartment quickly became a home away from home.
Soon, the trips became easier, and Gabriel became a little celebrity among the airport and airline staff, with Sandra teaching his followers about NAM and spreading cleft awareness. Facebook and Instagram documented Gabriel’s trips to New York and treatment progress, and daily iPhone picture and video communication with Dr. Barry Grayson transcended the limitations of time and distance and fixed any complications between visits. On September 10, 2013, Gabriel had his final palate repair surgery, culminating his year-long journey.
Today, Gabriel has the perfect smile he so much deserves. He is a thriving one year old boy, full of joy, love and curiosity. We look back at our one year journey and realize that Gabriel’s small imperfection had a perfect plan. Our hearts were touched by wonderful people at The myFace Center (formerly known as the IRPS) and myFace, we met families who helped us and whom we helped get through the unknowns, and as for me, Gabriel’s journey has transformed the IMPOSSIBLE into “I’m POSSIBLE!!!”