Imanol’s Mother Prayed for Help. Then a Star Showed Her the Way

When no one else could help, “Dr. TV” was there

Carolina and Imanol sitting at the kitchen table holding hands

Carolina couldn’t see Imanol when he was born. The hospital staff whisked him away, then her doctor walked in empty-handed. Every mother’s fear sunk into her mind. Did something happen to her son?

She’ll never forget the words that left her doctor's lips: “Your son was born with a cleft.”

Carolina couldn’t hide her shock. All of the ultrasounds showed Imanol was perfectly healthy. The whole family was unprepared; they had no idea what having a cleft would mean for Imanol and his future. It seemed to come out of nowhere.

The doctor sensed her fears and tried to calm her down. “Science has advanced so much. There’s a solution for clefts now. He can be healed.”

Imanol holding a picture of himself as a baby before his cleft surgeries
Though she didn’t know he’d be born with a cleft, Carolina knew she would do anything for Imanol

His words comforted her. By the time Carolina nestled Imanol into her arms, she was a little more relaxed. Knowing there was a solution out there was reassuring, even if she had no idea how to find it.

Shooting for the Stars

Carolina had seen people with clefts before, mostly adults who hadn’t had surgery, but she never thought to learn more because she never imagined that it could happen in her family. The hospital wasn’t able to provide much help. She felt stranded.

The first few months were painful. Imanol couldn’t breastfeed properly and had to be fed with a syringe. “It was traumatic,” Carolina said, “because he would choke and after feeding he would burp, making a horrible sound. I thought this would never end.”

The entire family loved Imanol so much; their hearts hurt for him.

A friend of the family had an idea. It seemed like a longshot, but he contacted Dr. TV, a popular Peruvian medical TV show where guests share their medical problems and host Dr. Tomás Borda Noriega connects them with possible solutions.

Imanol sitting with his younger brother at the kitchen table. Carolina is standing and smiling at them
Even when things are difficult, Carolina never gives up on her family

It worked! The show contacted Carolina and invited her on. There, in front of a national audience, Dr. Tomás introduced her to Smile Train partner Misíon Caritas Felices (MCF), who offered to provide Imanol all of the cleft surgeries he needed. Carolina felt like she was dreaming. Then the news got even better. Thanks to their partnership with Smile Train, every part of Imanol’s treatment would be completely free.

Carolina floated off the set that day in a daze.

Imanol, his great aunt, and his little brother sitting at the kitchen table together with glasses of milk
Imanol fills his entire family with smiles

Imanol had his cleft lip surgery at seven months thanks to MCF. Carolina spent an hour in the waiting room shaking with fear as Imanol was under the knife. When her baby was finally brought out, all of her anxieties melted away. How could she have been nervous? The results were amazing!

Surgical worries were a thing of the past by the time Imanol got his cleft palate surgery six months later. Everything went smoothly.

A Thriving Childhood

Imanol sitting and holding his pet chihuahua in front of his doghouse
Imanol adores his pets. He’d spend all day with them if he could!

Now Imanol is 11 and flourishing. He is working hard in school, and especially enjoys math. He loves spending quality time with his mother, siblings, and pets, and never says no when someone asks for help. Even when no one asks, Imanol will be there anyway, jumping at the chance to put a smile on someone else’s face. That’s why he dreams of becoming a police officer.

Imanol giving the camera a thumbs up on his red bike
Imanol is a speed demon on his bike! Just ask all of his neighborhood friends

Making friends has always been easy for Imanol. Other children on his block flock to his house to ride bikes around the city and play games with him. And when other kids bother him about his cleft, he pays no attention. With so many friends and loved ones by his side, he doesn’t have time to bother with them.

Imanol sitting on his bike in front of a street. He’s holding a Smile Train sign
Imanol showing off his Smile Train support

“I want to give a lot of gratitude to MCF and Smile Train for all the help they have given me and my son. Their help has brought us a great deal of peace of mind, and I am very grateful,” fawns Carolina. “Thank you, Smile Train, for giving my son back his smile.”

Your support can help more cleft-affected children realize their dreams.