Caroline Brady on Working with Operation Smile

Caroline Brady is currently a freshman here at Wake Forest. She spent a lot of time in high school working with the Operation Smile mission and is going to share some of her stories and insight from her experiences that coincided with her work with this initiative.

Her Campus: Caroline could you tell us what the Operation Smile initiative is?

Caroline Brady: Operation Smile is a global non-profit organization that works to provide free cleft lip and cleft pallet reconstructive surgeries for children and adults who live in countries without access to safe, well-timed, and effective surgical care. Operation Smile has a global volunteer network of medical professionals and students that are committed to treating every child with cleft conditions because we believe that healthcare is a fundamental human right and not a privilege. 

HC: When did you first get involved with Operation Smile?

CB: My freshman year of high school I joined my school’s Operation Smile club. I quickly fell in love with the mission of the organization and felt passionate about the issues in regard to global healthcare. I become involved with student programs when I attended my first international student leadership conference (ISLC) in the summer of 2016.

HC: What missions have you gone on through Operation Smile?

CB: I volunteered in my first medical mission in April of 2017, in Ho, Ghana. I worked as a student educator and taught patients and families about basic health care such as brushing your teeth, washing your hands, nutrition, oral rehydration therapy and burn care and prevention. I also escorted children into the operating rooms and observed the surgical process from start to finish. I have attended four international student conferences and this past summer I was one of twenty team leaders that ran the conference at Wake Forest University. 

HC: What is the most touching story you have experienced through Operation Smile?

CB: I was in the pre-op ward of the Volta Regional Hospital passing out coloring books and crayons when I felt someone tug on my pants. I turned around to find a little boy no more than seven years old holding a ripped coloring page with an embarrassed and distressed look on his face. "Madam," he croaked, "May I please have another paper?" I handed him another paper, then he thanked me three times, shook my hand, and went back to his mother who had a disappointed and angry look on her face. This little boy’s name is Simon, he is 8 years old, and he was born with a cleft lip and palate condition. He never went to school, he was criticized for the way he spoke and the way he looked, and he never had any self-confidence or felt loved at all. Simon's heart is as pure as gold, yet people only saw him for his cleft condition because he never had access to safe surgery before Operation Smile. Simon and I quickly developed a special bond and for the rest of the week he never left my side. We colored, played with tennis balls, blew bubbles, and drew with sidewalk chalk. When it came time for his surgery, I waited in the operating room for his number to be called. A few minutes later, Simon entered the OR with an anxious and terrified look on his face. I grabbed his hand and didn't let go until he was waking up from anesthesia after his surgery with his transformed smile. Simon changed my life in such a way I cannot even put into words, and in the few days we spent together we developed a friendship we both will never forget.

HC: Do you plan on starting Operation Smile here at Wake? CB: Yes, I do. I want to go on another mission while in college and continue to volunteer with Operation Smile through my career here. I think continuing with this at Wake Forest will help me in the future. I also think it is an important topic that will attract a lot of people on campus because there’s a lot of things for people to do. The organization itself values student participation and efforts in all stages of the surgical process. This includes raising money to directly helping in the field. 

If you are interested in joining Operation Smile, please visit their website