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Healing the Children

Isaac from Honduras

Dr. Huntington and Isaac

Dr. John Huntington, a Grand Rapids anesthesiologist, was in Honduras on a mission trip when he encountered a very malnourished little boy with a cleft lip and palate. That was the moment hope arrived for Isaac Cabrera, just two months old at that time.

Dr. Huntington and HTC consulted a team of doctors back in Grand Rapids, who agreed that surgery couldn’t be done until Isaac was a year old and better nourished. So, since his mom isn’t able to care for him, Isaac spent the next year at Hope of Honduras Children’s Home. When he was at last able to make the trip to Grand Rapids, Bryan and Carol Nyeholt of Hudsonville said yes once again and opened loving arms to Isaac.

Things moved very quickly after his arrival. First a checkup with pediatrician Joan Downs, then a pre-op appointment with his pediatric plastic surgeon, Dr. John Girotto. Surgery was the very next day!

Isaac's Care in Michigan
Doctors Girotto and Droste were among the volunteers who provided care for Isaac.

At Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, it took about seven hours for Dr. Girotto to repair Isaac’s lip and palate. While he was under anesthesia, Dr. Patrick Droste, pediatric ophthalmologist, examined his eyes, and ear, nose, and throat specialist Dr. Joseph Taylor put tubes in his ears. The surgery was successful, and Isaac’s appearance - and, more practically, his ability to eat - are much improved.

The downside of this sort of surgery is its aftermath, which generally includes limitations on diet. For Isaac that meant a liquid diet for three weeks - just imagine! In addition, he had to wear splints on his arms for two weeks so that he couldn’t stick his fingers in his mouth and undo Dr. Girotto’s handiwork. Carol says, “Let’s just say we were counting the days until the two weeks were up.” Then came some relief as the three weeks of liquid ended and Isaac moved on to pureed and then soft food.

Isaac still needed care from Dr. Droste. There was some cloudiness in his right eye that afforded him only 20 percent vision. Several weeks of steroid drops helped, and then there were brand new, ever-so-cute glasses. Isaac also wore an eyepatch for an hour every day. The result of all this? Isaac now has 80 percent vision in that right eye.

Despite Isaac’s year of better nutrition in Honduras, when he arrived in Michigan his mobility skills were not well developed. Carol says, “He had just learned to sit and was still a bit unstable. But it was only a couple of weeks until he had completely mastered sitting. About two months later he was on his hands and knees crawling — and now if there were a baby crawling race, I’m sure he’d win. It wasn't long before he took his first step!

Isaac in Michigan

“We are so proud of him! He has grown and learned so much since he came to us. He is a sweet kid who always has a smile ready, and we adore him! Many thanks to the hospital and all the docs involved in Isaac’s care. His life is forever changed because of your generosity!”


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