Helping Children Receive Life-Changing Surgeries for Congenital Differences of the Face or Body
Diego was born in Puebla, Mexico, with bilateral microtia, a rare birth defect that left both his ears undeveloped, inside and out. Even with a hearing aid amplifying sound, Diego said his world was almost silent. His mother, Alma, sought help for her son, but could not afford the surgeries needed. She reached out to Small Wonders Foundation and Diego became our first funding recipient.
Diego and Alma traveled to California for the first time. Pediatric plastic surgeon Dr. John Reinisch created for Diego artificial ears and neuro-otologist Dr. Joseph Roberson created for him ear canals and drums.
Overall, it took three surgeries within the span of two days to fully create Diego’s ears. Finally, Diego was able to hear his mother’s voice clearly for the first time at age 12. Soon after he was back to gymnastics and could enjoy the roar of the crowd at his competitions.
Today, Diego is a gymnast, college student and a spokesperson for Small Wonders Foundation. “Small Wonders and Dr. Reinisch made by dreams come true,” said Diego. “Meeting these wonderful people changed my life. They give people hope.”
Caly Angel was born in the Philippines with a hairy nevus across her cheek. Her parents were afraid the nevus might grow and also were concerned about the social repercussions their only daughter would have to deal with on the playground and in school.
They started researching solutions but meanwhile downplaying the abnormality to Caly by calling it her “lucky charm.”
Caly’s parents could not find adequate treatment for her in their native Philippines, so they bravely traveled to the United States to seek the right surgeon. Luck was on their side. They were introduced to Dr. John Reinisch.
But without insurance in the U.S., paying for the surgery was not possible for them. The family sought help from Small Wonders Foundation and Dr. Reinisch donated his time to remove the nevus. Happy and sweet, 10-year-old Caly Angel is thriving. She is in 5th grade at a magnet school in Los Angeles and her interests include music, cooking, chess, singing, art, gaming, and technology.
Liam, now 7 years old, was unexpectedly born with a hairy nevus that covered half his forehead and over his right eye. Doctors told his parents that the nevus could potentially develop into cancer.
His worried parents researched doctors through the insurance plan and couldn’t find the right one to perform such an important and delicate surgery. But their research led them to Dr. John Reinisch. Luckily, they were all based in Los Angeles. But they did not have the resources to pay for the surgeries on their own. They discovered Small Wonders Foundation, which raised funds to help pay for costs surrounding the first of five surgeries Liam would need to remove the nevus. Dr. Reinisch donated his time and felt strongly that Liam should have the surgeries while he was young, even before he started school.
The assistance the friendly and outgoing Liam received from Small Wonders Foundation and Dr. Reinisch has inspired him to want to become a doctor or nurse when he grows up so he can help people and carpool to work with his mom, who’s a nurse!
Luca was born prematurely with no external left ear and little ability to hear. His parents immediately went in search of a diagnosis and traveled miles from their home in Târgoviște, Romania, to seek treatment.
When Luca was still very young, doctors in Bucharest were able to identify his congenital malformation as Grade III left microtia and aural atresia. The corrective surgeries available in Romania were not sufficient and funds were not available for travel and treatment in the U.S.
But Luca’s mother, Rebeca, found Small Wonders and Dr. Reinisch and appealed for help for her little boy. Following an assessment, Dr. Reinisch determined that he could help Luca and shortly thereafter performed the life-changing procedure.
Luca, now 8, is a happy boy who loves his “amazing ear,” which allows him to wear sunglasses. He also plays the guitar and enjoys his friends, math, European football, cars and cartoons.
“Our words cannot express the gratitude that we have for Small Wonders Foundation and for Dr. Reinisch and for his team,” says Rebeca. “Without you and Dr. Reinisch, Luca would not have had the ear reconstruction. What happened with Luca is a BIG miracle.”
Small Wonders Foundation is a California-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) that provides education, awareness, and funding for surgeries for children in the U.S. and from around the world who otherwise could not afford it or were denied by insurance companies.