Unmasking Savannah’s Smile

Neither lack of knowledge or a pandemic were any match for her mom

Savannah being held by her parents while holding a picture of herself before cleft lip and palate surgery. Everybody is smiling

Anna was elated to discover she was pregnant. She couldn’t wait to have a second child to smother with motherly love. She felt this way even when, one month before her baby’s birth, something shocking showed up on the ultrasound.

Savannah had a cleft.

It was entirely unexpected. Both Anna and her husband had seen people with clefts before but never knew much about them. No one in their family had ever had a cleft. Where could it have come from? Anna worried it was somehow her fault but knew she would love Savannah with her entire heart no matter what.

Once Savannah was born, Anna scoured the city for any help she could find but met only dead ends and shut doors.

Though desperate and beyond exhausted from caring for a child who struggled to eat, she did not lose hope. At last, when Savannah was nine months old, Anna found what she had been searching for — and more than even she had ever dared imagine. A local social worker pointed her to Smile Train partner care center Mabuhay Deseret Foundation, where he assured her Savannah would receive all the cleft treatments she would ever need, 100% free.

Savannah before cleft surgery

Anna scooped up Savannah and ran to the foundation. The cleft team patiently answered all her questions: Savannah’s cleft was not her fault or her husband’s. There was no catch: Thanks to Smile Train’s generous donors, all the medical care — including not only multiple surgeries but also speech therapy, orthodontics, and other interventions — her daughter needed to smile and thrive really would be completely free.

But this was spring 2020. Anna’s familiar feelings of helplessness returned as the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to stop Savannah’s cleft journey before it ever really began. Still, her family refused to give up helping her however they could, and neither did the team at Mabuhay Deseret. They constantly checked in on them, offering any advice they could for keeping physically and mentally healthy during those trying times.

Perhaps their most healing intervention was the promise they made: They would always be there. As soon as it was safe, Savannah would receive the cleft surgery she so needed.

They were as good as their word. A few weeks shy of her third birthday, the local authorities determined that in-person care was safe again and Savannah received her cleft lip surgery. Though the team had earned her trust, Anna still couldn’t help but fret in the waiting room.

Savannah smiling, flashing a peace sign
Now, Savannah’s life is all peace, love, and smiles

When they wheeled her out, her parents were over the moon. They couldn’t believe her transformation in just over an hour!

Savannah studying at a table with her parents

Now, Savannah loves playing outside. Instead of gawking at her cleft, neighbors are awestruck by her glowing smile. Savannah is also a budding creative. When she isn’t running around, she’s showing off her latest dance moves or practicing her writing. Her parents can’t wait to see what she’ll do next.

Savannah’s parents holding her up together
Savannah’s whole family can smile now, thanks to Smile Train’s donors

The whole family is extraordinarily thankful to Smile Train and Mabuhay Deseret Foundation. With their help, Savannah gets to look in the mirror every day and see a bright smile. And an even brighter future.

Your donation could help a family just like Savannah’s get the treatment they’ve been looking for.