Karen and her husband, Fernando, of Santa Catarina State, Brazil, learned that their son, Kaio, would be born with a cleft lip and palate a few months before he was born. Despite their surprise and concern, the whole family resolved to provide their child all the support he would need.
Karen was told of Kaio's cleft during an ultrasound in her fifth month of pregnancy in an unpleasant, hurtful way. The same language was repeated by the maternity staff when Kaio was born, prematurely, three months later. Worse, the staff refused to even let her see or hold her son until the day after delivery.
When he was just a few days old, Karen took Kaio to his first appointment at Smile Train partner centre Rede Profis Centrinho Joinville. There, the staff and other mothers of babies with clefts welcomed her and Kaio with warmth, love, and open arms. “My life started again at Centrinho,” she cried.
Now six years old, Kaio is preparing for his third Smile Train-supported surgery. In the meantime, he is often lonely and struggles with speech — a teacher even ignored him when he couldn’t understand what he was trying to say.
Then, in April 2019, Karen saw an Instagram post from her friend Natalia, who also has a son with a cleft, featuring a puppy named Robin who had been born with a cleft lip and was rejected by his mother when he was unable to breastfeed. The little guy urgently needed a loving home that could provide him the specialised care he needed to survive, including feeding him special milk every three hours and massaging his stomach after eating until he was strong enough to digest on his own.
Karen immediately knew she was the mum this puppy needed. In just two days, Robin had already become an indispensable part of the family and Kaio's faithful companion, a soul he could identify with.
Karen believes Robin was born to be a member of her family. She set up the Instagram profile “Robin, the puppy with a cleft” [in Portuguese] to inspire others to choose love of difference over rejection, in the hopes that no one will ever again have to endure the bullying and prejudice from healthcare workers — or anyone else — she and her son did.
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