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Thanks to Surgery, 3 Brothers Born With Rare Facial Condition Smile for the First Time


A smile on the face of your child is a delight to every parent, but for one mother of three, it means more than most of us can imagine.

Zachary, Luke and Griffin Lori were born with a condition called facial paralysis which left them unable to show facial expressions, according to a blog post their mom, Lisa, wrote.

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Now, thanks to a special surgery, the boys are grinning from ear to ear and helping to spread smiles to other children around the world.

Since birth, each of the Lori boys struggled to eat, swallow and speak, and they couldn’t close their mouths. The family spent seven years consulting doctor after doctor to no avail.

“At this point in our lives, I had come to believe that nothing could help us and we need to accept our fate,” Lisa Lori wrote. “I lived in a very small sphere between my professional life where I told virtually no one and my personal life where we had lost every semblance of privacy. Everywhere we went, people stared at us, young or old, it didn’t matter, the insensitivity of complete strangers was boundless.”

Then, finally they met a pediatric plastic surgeon named Dr. Ronald Zuker, a volunteer for the organization Operation Smile, an international medical charity serving low income countries by offering cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries to children, according to its website.

Zuker used a special muscle transplant procedure, that he had pioneered, on the Lori brothers, NBC Today reported. After eight surgeries, Lisa Lori was able to see her boys smile for the first time.

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“You can live so long without something that you can tell yourself it doesn’t matter. You can tell yourself you don’t need it. And then one day, a miracle happened, and my son smiled after two major surgeries,” Lisa Lori told The Mighty in an email. “The first side of his face starting working while we were in a Target shopping. I said, ‘Oh my God, you’re face is working, run in the bathroom and look at yourself.’ I will never forget that moment for as long as I live. It literally brought me to my knees.”

Full of gratitude, the boys are now spreading their smiles around the world.

The Lori family decided to pay it forward by working with Operation Smile to create a project called Three Little Bears. Now, when donors give the gift of a life-altering surgery to a child in another country, both the child and the person making the donation will receive a teddy bear.

"Three Little Bears" To Benefit Operation Smile

For the child, it’s a comforting companion he or she can take into surgery and cuddle with while recovering. For the donor, it’s a memento of a kind and generous act.

The plush bears, each one named after one of the three brothers, are made exclusively for Operation Smile. Often times, these stuffed animals are the first teddy bear that a scared child in a foreign country, about to undergo surgery, has ever owned.

If they hug the bear really tightly,” Griffin, 10, told NBC Today, “they don’t get scared.”

A few months ago, Lisa Lori, her husband, a family friend and her eldest son, Zachary, went on a medical mission trip to Panama to see firsthand some of the good that Operation Smile is doing, according to a blog on The Huffington Post.

Lori acknowledges that her sons’ journey is far from over, but, as she elegantly puts it:

We have so much to smile about!

If you’d like to donate to Three Little Bears, head here. When you donate $240 for a smile, you are giving a child going into surgery a bear and also getting one for yourself.

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