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New Life at 16

Alex Estevez

Alex Estevez and Dr. Larry Nichter

Ibarra, Ecuador

July 23rd – August 3rd

Alex Esteves is an energetic, handsome and engaging 21 year old man who was one of our incredibly helpful volunteers. He has a quickness to his step, a smile on his face and possesses obvious “joie de vivre”. Unfortunately, his life was not always this way.

Alex was  born with a cleft lip and palate deformity in Atuntaqui, Ecuador. His parents traveled when Alex was a baby and young child with great difficulty to Guayaquil to have surgery by Dr. Jorge Palacios. He underwent several surgeries (cleft lip repair, cleft palate repair, alveolar bone grafting, and others) but continued to struggle with self-esteem issues  due to residual problems associated with his cleft deformity. At 16 years of age he expressed his feelings of love and attraction to a school mate who told him he was ugly and that she didn’t like him or wanted to be around him. He became seriously depressed and attempted suicide. His parents desperate for help ventured the 12 hour long bus trip to Guayaquil to see Dr. Palacios again. Jorge listened to him and gave him this advice. “Your scar is not a measure of who you are and that if he applied himself he would be the President of a water company rather than selling water on the streets”. He indicated that Alex had a special purpose in life and that he just needed to find it. He told Alex that I can improve your appearance but you need to improve yourself. In return, he requested that Alex  to bring his report card every quarter for him to review which prompted Alex to refocus on his studies as he stopped going to school. Soon thereafter, Alex told Dr. Palacios, I know what my purpose is – that is to be a Plastic Surgeon so that I to can restore patients just like you did with me. Alex applied himself was an A student and was accepted to Medical School. He is currently in his second year of medical school and is ranked at the top of his class.  He has helped out on many of Dr. Palacios’ Rostros Felices (“Happy Smiles”) travelling to underserved locations throughout Ecuador. When asked about his struggles, and if he felt proud that he is doing so well in medical school Alex smiles broadly, his eyes light up and replied: “the results of one exam are not a measure of who I am. I am learning to use my knowledge to help others. I have spent half of my life in this hospital in Ibarra and I want to repay my debt to my second home… I’ve had some good and bad times, but every day I thank God for allowing me to be here to help others”.  I asked if I could share his story, and his photo – with and instantaneous smile he said he would be honored and hoped that it might help someone else in his same situation.  Alex is clearly well on his way to achieve his life’s goal and will undoubtedly be an inspiration to others to do the same.

 

Larry Nichter, MD

 

The Plasticos Team would like to especially thank Russell Kern and Meryl Zinn for their generous contribution to the 2013 Ecuador trip.

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