More Than Just a New Smile – Robinson’s Story

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10-year-old Robinson arrived at The Retreat in May 2019 from a small village in Papua New Guinea. He said goodbye to his dad at the airport in Port Moresby and made the long journey to Australia, accompanied by a friend of the Foundation. With other children to care for at home, his family made the tough decision that Robbo would need to travel without them by his side.

Robbo with his parents back at home in PNG prior to surgery.

From the moment he arrived, Robbo was an absolute delight. He is a charming, energetic and helpful little boy who enjoys playing with the other kids. Before Robert and Gerkess arrived, he loved being “the man of the house”. His short legs bent under the weight as he insisted on bringing in wood for the fire and helping the volunteers with the shopping bags.

Robbo was referred to Children First Foundation by our long-term partner No Roads – Health. Robbo had a severe cleft lip and palate that could not be treated in PNG.

In Australia, most clefts are corrected before the child reaches their first birthday. Untreated clefts can result in difficulty speaking and feeding and can increase the risk of middle ear infections which can eventually lead to hearing loss.

Mr David Chong, a renowned Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, agreed to take on Robbo’s case. We are very grateful to him, not just for his help with Robbo, but for his incredible support over the last 12 years. David has a passion for correcting facial and skull deformities in children and says he “feels blessed” to be able to change their lives.

Robbo was booked in for his surgery at Northpark Private Hospital in June, but the poor little guy was unwell with a throat infection, and his surgery was postponed. He finally had the operation in late July, and his lip was repaired. Although David had planned to repair both his lip and palate at the same time, he discovered that the hole in the palate was larger than originally thought. As a result, David decided that another operation would be needed. Robbo returned to The Retreat to recover, and after a few days working off the anesthetic, he was back to his cheeky self!

Robbo and his surgeon, David Chong

The second surgery took place at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Melbourne on 5 October. It went very well, but a small hiccup with an infection after surgery meant poor Robbo was not able to eat solid food for a few days – not a happy chap!

Thankfully, it only lasted a short time, and Robbo bounced back to his usual self! He was stoked to see his surgeon, David at the Gala Ball under more fun circumstances.

We are very grateful that Nexus Health in Wallan agreed to take on Robbo’s speech pathology for us on a pro-bono basis. This is particularly significant as the remoteness of Robbo’s home location means he will not have access to these kinds of services once he leaves us. We can’t wait to see what this cheeky chap has to say once this therapy allows his speech to develop fully.

Enjoying the playground at The Retreat after surgery

If you’d like to help more children like Robinson access surgery and treatment that will transform their lives, please donating today.


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