Operation San Jose: Dulce's Story

Seven year-old Dulce has been battling the odds her entire life. At birth, doctors left her under a heating lamp too long, causing her to go blind when her cornea’s dried out. Along with her blindness, she was born with a mid-facial cleft and missing fingers on her hands. Her parents, living in Puebla, Mexico, were unable to afford the cost of the new found medical needs of their newborn and did not know where to turn.

Since 1983, CHRISTUS Foundation for HealthCare has funded Operation San Jose Mission trips providing surgical missions to Mexico, Central and South America annually. Each trip provides free surgical repair of cranial and facial birth defects to indigent children born with cleft lip and palate deformities. When Dulce’s parents heard Operation San Jose was coming to Puebla in 2017, they were happy to have found an avenue to help their daughter.

In 2017, physicians repaired her right eye and eyelid which helped only a portion of her needs. Maria Salazar, Operation San Jose Program Coordinator, arranged for Dulce and her mother to fly to Shriner’s Hospital in Houston to repair the left side of her face and eye, later in the year. Unfortunately, they were unable to come to Houston, however, because her mother was pregnant. On March 3, 21 team members of doctors, interns, anesthesiologists and nurses, headed by Dr. Michael Lypka, flew to Zacupu, Mexico, a six hour car ride from Puebla. Dulce’s family knew she had to be there.

With the help of a Catholic Church in Mexico City, Dulce, her mother, and new baby brother drove to Zacupu for surgery. After the procedure, Dulce now has less pain, improved appearance and can now close her eyelids without the help of ointments. Although she still has many needs to be met, Dulce is improving each day. She has always had a beautiful soul and been a very happy child. Her recent procedures are allowing her to show it every day.

Over the course of eight days, the Operation San Jose team operated on 49 patients, many with multiple procedures, at no cost to the patient. Each patient and their family, like Dulce’s, were very appreciative and felt blessed to be able to receive this important care to help improve their child’s life.