When Jose Luis was born, his parents lived in a very rural area where there were no roads or buses. His father, Ruperto, worked in the fields harvesting crops, when he was able to find work. Ruperto spent most of what he earned to support his alcohol addiction, so there was never enough money for food and basic necessities.

Jose Luis was born at home. His mother, Lucia, noticed right away that something was wrong. Something was bulging between his eyes and on top of his nose, and he was bleeding from his eye. There was no way to take him to a doctor because it was during the rainy season and the river was too dangerous to cross on foot. One month later, Lucia was able to cross the river, carrying her baby, and walk 5 hours to the nearest medical clinic. The doctor there did a quick exam, prescribed some eye drops, and sent her on her way.

Lucia began the long walk home very discouraged. During the 8 years that followed, she despaired for her son. Jose tried to go to school, but the other children made fun of him and called him “monster.” After months of name-calling, Jose quit school to stay home with his mother.

In hopes of finding help, Lucia and Jose rode many hours in the back of a truck to see another doctor, who told them that Jose needed a surgery. The doctor said they needed to go to a large city. For Lucia, a mother who could barely feed her children, money for travel was not even a possibility. More discouraged than ever, Lucia was comforted by her friends, who told her that God would help her.

In February of 2008, a nurse named Maria, who worked in the Mission of Hope clinic, came to Jose’s village to show the “Jesus” film. Jose went by himself to see the movie, and Maria befriended him. She walked home with him and met Lucia, as well as Jose’s younger sister, Marioli, who had been born with the same problem. Maria told Lucia about the Mission of Hope clinic, where everything is free, and also told her about a surgery team that was coming from the US for a week of free surgeries.

In March of 2008, Jose and Marioli came to the Mission of Hope clinic to be screened for surgery. Marioli was able to have surgery with the US team, but Jose’s condition was too advanced. Doctors on the team said he would need to come to the US to have his surgery. Until this screening, Lucia had no idea that this “bulge” between Jose’s eyes was part of his brain and that the only thing protecting it was skin. Part of the skull bone was missing, creating a potentially fatal situation.

On October 15, 2009, Jose Luis entered Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk, VA, where Dr. Joseph Han, an ENT surgeon, Dr. Vijay Singh, a neurosurgeon, and Dr. Eric Dobratz, a facial plastic surgeon, performed the very delicate 8 hour surgery to reconstruct Jose’s skull and nose. All of the physicians involved in Jose’s excellent care donated their services. The hospital donated the entire cost of the surgery, and American Airlines donated round-trip air travel.

Lucia is so happy that Jose Luis can now live a normal life. Jose Luis, who is now 14 years old, is anxious to go to school and learn how to read and write. They are both very grateful to everyone who has supported Mission of Hope to make this possible!