Tadeo Sees a Brighter Tomorrow

His courageous mother fought for him from his first breath

After the devastation of losing a newborn baby, her father, and her mother one after the other, Maria told herself she was through having children. Then she learned she was pregnant again. With twins.

Nine slow, agonizing months later, she gave birth to Mateo and Tadeo — and Tadeo couldn’t breathe. The midwife told Maria he would be stillborn.

But Maria told the woman to give him CPR. “He wanted to live. I felt that he wanted to live,” she remembers.

She complied… and then Maria heard Tadeo crying. It was only then that she noticed his cleft. She didn’t care.

“My child is saved!” she cried.

Tadeo could breathe; now, he needed to learn how to eat because his cleft made feeding a constant struggle. Even with six other children to care for, Maria showed endless patience and care in making sure her baby always had enough. But, of course, she knew it wasn’t really enough. She yearned to provide him the cleft surgery and other professional care she knew he so needed, but doubted it would ever be possible. Not when her family could barely afford to eat.

Tadeo couldn’t wait to start school. He talked and talked about all the new friends he was going to make and all the new things he was going to learn. But his classmates crushed his hopes. The bullying over his cleft got worse and worse until Tadeo came home each day in tears, begging not to have to go back.

Maria had no choice. She pulled him out of school to protect his mental and physical safety even as she lay awake each night terrified for his future.

Then she learned about the ABC Clinic, a Smile Train partner in Mexico City. The team gave Tadeo a thorough examination, then presented Maria with a detailed plan for a long-term, comprehensive treatment journey that would help him grow into his best, healthiest self — and reassured her that, thanks to the generosity of Smile Train’s donors, every bit of this care would be 100% free. All she needed to worry about now was helping Tadeo thrive.

The process began by fitting him with a customized orthopedic device to prepare his mouth for cleft surgery.

A few weeks later, at six years old, Tadeo was finally ready for the procedure that changed his life — and Maria’s, too! Watch the video to see the amazing transformation for yourself. Maria’s advice to other mothers in her situation? Fight for your children. Children “like this are a blessing from God. I’m grateful to God because my child is a blessing.”

You can be a blessing to children and families in need around the world.

Our Impact in Mexico

as of April 2023


cleft surgeries sponsored since 2002


active partner surgeons


partner hospitals