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Couple Travels to Mexico to Help Bring Smiles to Children Born With Cleft Lips and Cleft Palates

Kristi Loveridge and her wife Lorena Arellano recently traveled to Guadalajara, Mexico for an Operation Smile medical mission where the team helped over 100 children receive new smiles. Operation Smile is an international medical charity that has provided hundreds of thousands of free surgeries for children and young adults in low-and middle-income countries who are born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial differences.

“One of my favorite things to do on a medical mission is to bring bottles of nail polish to paint patients’ nails,” said Loveridge. “Even though we don’t speak the same language, this is a small gesture that shows patients I care, I see you and I want to connect with you. Since sometimes I can’t say this, I try to show it through painting nails,” added Loveridge.

Loveridge always wanted to give more. When she found out about the opportunity to use her nursing skills to help children in low-and middle-income countries, she couldn’t get on a mission fast enough. Almost 10 years later, Loveridge has volunteered as a pre-op/post-op nurse on 22 medical missions and touched hundreds of children’s lives. After many years of volunteering with Operation Smile, Loveridge convinced her wife, Lorena Arellano, to join the Operation Smile team as medical records volunteer.

As a trained medical records volunteer, Arellano takes all the information from a patient’s paper medical record and transfers it to an electronic medical record. The Operation Smile team of surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses rely on each patient’s medical record to administer medicine and customize their care plan. Also, Arellano and her team help to generate the surgical schedule for each day.

This trip to Guadalajara marked Arellano’s 12th medical mission. The medical mission was extra special for Arellano because she was born in Mexico and the Guadalajara site was where she went to on her first medical mission with Operation Smile.

As the medical records team leader at this site, she oversees helping to train local and international volunteers. “It feels really good to be able to help out people in country, to train them, so they can be self-sufficient at some point,” said Arellano. “It’s a part of me that I didn’t know I had. It makes me feel so happy that I found this other side of me that I didn’t know thanks to Operation Smile,” added Arellano.

Loveridge and Arellano plan to continue to volunteer their time on medical missions for as long as they can. The couple normally volunteers on separate missions but this one was special since they were able to go on it together.

“I keep coming back to Operation Smile because of the individuals I meet and the lives we help change. We both met a boy named James. He was 19 years old and had never made eye contact and only went outside with a surgical mask,” said Loveridge. “I have met so many children with stories like James and I have seen how their lives change after surgery. These children are the reason why I keep coming back to help,” added Loveridge.

About Operation Smile
Operation Smile has provided hundreds of thousands of safe surgeries for those born with cleft lip, cleft palate or other facial deformities. With more than three decades of expertise, Operation Smile creates solutions that deliver free surgery to people where it’s needed most. As one of the largest medical volunteer-based nonprofits, Operation Smile has mobilized thousands of medical volunteers from a wide range of medical specialties from more than 80 countries. Operation Smile engages public-private partnerships to advance health care delivery, train local medical professionals to provide surgical care for patients in their communities, donate crucial medical equipment and supplies, and increase access to surgical care so that everyone living with cleft is treated. Visit, find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

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