EL PASO, Texas -- Take a look at this picture. Girl and dog, side by side, after running and playing together on a beautiful autumn day.
Canela the golden retriever is oblivious to how special this moment is to 11-year-old Angelique. It's the first time, after all, she's ever met a dog that has similar abnormalities of the face. Angelique was born with facial separation, and has a cleft lip and palate. Canela also has a mid-facial cleft.
The two were brought together for this play date by Angelique's surgeon, Dr. David Yates. As part of a nationally-approved cleft team at El Paso Children's Hospital, he adopted Canela and is now in the puppy training stages with this special dog. Angelique says she enjoyed playing with Canela, and loved her heart-shaped nose.
Angelique's mom, Blanca Garcia, says her daughter goes through a lot of bullying, Even adults, she says, will stare and make comments, forcing this strong mother to bite her tongue, and turn the other way.
"It's hard. You don't have a good answer," Garcia says. "I just say ignore them, you're not like that."
Angelique just completed a third surgery, this one to improve the appearance of her nose. It's something she and Dr. Yates have been looking forward to for years.
"They just wanna walk into a room and just be a kid," says Dr. Yates.
One in every 700 babies born has a cleft lip or palate, and will require an average of 7 surgeries before age 18. Most cleft lips are discovered when the babies are in utero, thanks to imaging. That was not the case with Angelique, whose condition was a surprise when she was born.
"I was scared, to be honest," admits Garcia. "I didn't know where she would go - what doctors." This doting mother got right to work, and now jokes that she is an expert on Angelique's condition and treatments. She is her number one advocate, and recently helped another expectant mother when she learned her baby would have a cleft lip.
With this third surgery behind her, Angelique is looking forward to returning to her 5th grade classroom and working on her art, and trying new makeup looks in her spare time.
Her mom, like many others, thanking El Paso Children's Hospital for the excellent care offered right here in El Paso.
"It's the best feeling in the world. It's what I always dreamt of doing," says Dr. Yates.