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IFC Cleft Palate Clinic: Treating Children in Need

January 30, 2013

IFC Cleft Palate Clinic helps children ranging in age from newborns to about 18 years of age. They will have surgeries to close the lip and palate, then dental work, plastic surgeries, and speech therapy.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - As it has done for 27 years, the International Friendship Club (IFC) held its quarterly Cleft Palate clinic and surgeries on Wednesday, January 23rd. This time the clinics were held right at the IFC Clubhouse.

IFC Cleft Palate Program Directors April and Bill Miton have the monumental job of making all of the arrangements to get the physicians here from Guadalajara, and coordinate with the hospital to make sure the clinic and surgeries run smoothly. Doctors and nurses came from Guadalajara to see the patients and then decide who will have surgeries this time. As the families and children waited for their turn to see the doctors and nurses, volunteers set up an area for crafts to help entertain the niños and niñas.

The following day the recently remodeled CMQ Hospital on Basilio Badea hosted the surgeries. They have welcomed the IFC Cleft Palate program with open arms and made it possible for them to carry on this life-transforming work. On Wednesday, the clinics saw about 40 children. Of the 40 requiring surgery 12 were operated on Thursday.

Children range in age from newborns to about 18 years of age. Over the course of their young lives they will endure many surgeries to close the lip, then the palate, dental work and orthodontia, plastic surgeries, speech therapy, and whatever it might take to eliminate or mitigate the effects of this defect.

New to the program this time were two infants with severe double clefts. These babies are fitted with prosthetic palates and had prior to this been fed by the time-consuming method of using a syringe. Thanks to donations by friends of the IFC they now have special Medela squeeze bottles and nipples for these infants. Susan Davalós, RN, and community outreach nurse for the program, taught the moms how to use the new bottles and worked with the infants to adjust to sucking rather than getting the formula from the syringe. They did amazingly well!

Both of these babies with double clefts have excess gum that is open to the outside and sits in front of the nose. They were fitted with a hat that holds in place a device that flattens this ball of tissue before the infants can have surgery. Maxillary orthopedics is the expansion and realignment of parts of the gum and palate with removable appliances. These devices change the anatomy and make it suitable for surgery.

The little boy, Angel Alexis, was brought to our clinic by his parents from a small town outside of Tomatlán. Angel is just one month old, and surprisingly healthy looking. His mom has been patiently and conscientiously feeding him up to six ounces of formula at a time through a 5 ml. syringe! He was a happy little guy being bounced by his proud papa. Tomatlán is a four and a half hour bus ride away and this family knew no one in Vallarta. The IFC program members have become a family and soon this young couple had a place to stay and people to guide them through what can be a frightening experience.

A little girl, Melani, is just three months old and was there with her mother and grandmother. This family is no stranger to the IFC Cleft Palate Program. The baby's uncle, Juan Jose, is 18 years old and a veteran of the program having been through the gamut of surgeries and services the IFC program has to offer.

The IFC supports the Cleft Palate Program through membership, donations, and fund-raising activities - primarily their twice-weekly IFC Original Home Tours. For more information on how you might help you can go to or

The International Friendship Club is a registered charitable organization in Mexico listed as Club Internacional de la Amistad de Puerto Vallarta A.C. It is located at the northeast corner of the Rio Cuale Bridge above the HSBC Bank, Colonia El Centro, Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico, 48300. Phone: (322) 222-5466. Website: Email: ifcvallarta(at)