We first introduced you to Landmark recipients Xuan (then 8 months old) and Long (age 9) when they first arrived in the U.S. from China in February. Both children were abandoned at birth, likely due to their significant craniofacial abnormalities.
We are delighted to share that both boys are doing incredibly well! The LEAP family has come out in support of these sweet souls in so many beautiful ways over the past 6 months. Seeing their transformations—both physically and emotionally—since their arrival has been such a joy.
According to Dr. Hobar, “Xuan has been one of the most challenging situations I have ever seen in a bilateral cleft lip. His attempted repair in China separated, and his lateral lips fused behind his central segment, pushing it out and away.”
This basically means that Xuan’s perceived simple surgery was in fact one of the most complex we’ve ever treated through LEAP. In total, Xuan has received four surgeries to repair his bilateral cleft lip and cleft palate. There was a 4-week period when his mouth had to be mostly closed—imagine how hard that must have been for a growing baby who loves to eat!
Throughout it all, the Cotter family hosted Xuan in their home. Katie and Mike (a pediatrician at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas) have 5 children, and everyone came together to care for Xuan while he healed. They bonded in a spectacular fashion, so much so that the Cotters have decided to be a family of 8 with plans to adopt Xuan!
“Baby Xuan has been a blessing to our family, and I feel honored that LEAP contacted us to be a part of his care,” said Katie. “Through his cuddles and snuggles, he has opened our hearts in such a beautiful way. We have met so many outstanding people who are involved in helping this little one. Caring for Xuan is truly a labor of love for all involved.”
Xuan and Mike just returned from a week-long trip to Beijing in order to complete various medical exams at the children’s hospital there. Throughout the week, they were able to sightsee and enjoy several special moments together. Xuan was also able to see many of his former house moms at Little Flower Orphanage, who lovingly cared for him since he was a newborn.
During the first couple of months stateside, he was showered with love by the Ortegas and Howells, two longtime LEAP supporters and host families, where he had tons of adventures learning about American culture, cuisine, and comfort (his favorite food is still spicy chicken feet, though!). One of his favorite outings was his visit to the Anna Fire Department, where he loved learning how to aim the water hose and ring the fire bell.
LEAP volunteer Charlie Lin, NP, was also integral to his care as a translator and appeared on NBC5 with the Howells and Long when his story was featured by Bianca Castro.
Long endured an 8+ hour surgery on March 8, after going through an extensive pre-op appointment the previous day that included a full debrief, where medical professionals explained what to expect in detail. Like several other Landmark recipients with complex facial clefts, his treatment required a multi-specialty approach. His surgery required four pediatric surgeons: Dr. Craig Hobar, Dr. Fred Sklar, Dr. Doug Sinn, and Dr. Evan Beale.
“Long waited a long time for this surgery, and it will definitely change his life,” said Dr. Hobar. “He is really smart and is bothered by how he is treated differently because of his craniofacial problem. I think he will be a very, very special young man because of who he is and what he has been through. We are thankful that we can be part of another miraculous transformation.”
A couple of weeks after his surgery, Long was able to have his sutures removed, and he met another Landmark recipient—Li Ying—who greeted him in Mandarin and brought a smile to his face.
On March 30, Long had his final appointment with Dr. Hobar before traveling to Georgia to stay with the Chinery family, who was advocating for his adoption. This family of 8 adopted two children from China last year. Their son Evan is a friend of Long who lived in the same orphanage!
We got to see him again in May, when he had a busy day of diagnostic studies and evaluations with Dr. Hobar and Dr. Grant Gilliland. Long’s final surgery took place in late June. His time in Atlanta over the past 4 months has been truly wonderful. He has learned a tremendous amount of English, surpassed his grade level in home school education, and has become an excellent swimmer, recently receiving the Coach Team Award for Most Valuable Team Member.
The Chinerys have loved him well; he has thrived and become happier and more confident though their love and the community that has greatly embraced him.