Valentine’s Day –  a romantic day of love filled with quality time with loved ones, overpriced gifts and corny affirmations!  However, one of my most cherished memories of romance actually took place far from my home and loved ones in Malawi!  


I went on a medical mission several years ago and repaired a young man’s bilateral cleft lip.  After repairing his cleft lip, I had the pleasure of meeting his wife and son. They exuded love and contentment.  I spoke with them briefly and then moved on to my next case.

As some of you may know, nurses have the opportunity to get to know their patients very well, allowing them to know more about a patient’s life than me. Even though I was extremely busy, something inside my soul told me to check in with the nurses about this particular patient later that day. I just thought it was a normal happy day in the patient ward until I spoke to the nurses.

At that moment, I received one of the greatest gifts ever.

The nurse told me that this patient was a wonderful man and very respected within his community. His neighbors saw him as a strong, hard working man despite his disfigurement. His girlfriend and eventually wife saw through to his soul. They fell in love, got married, had a son, and started saving money in the hopes of getting the opportunity to repair his bilateral cleft lip.

Through the radio, they heard that a team of plastic surgeons would be coming close to their neighborhood.  They used their savings for travel costs and I was fortunate enough to operate on him.

After his bilateral cleft lip repair, his wife began to weep in the recovery room, telling the nurses that finally his exterior matched the beautiful soul she’d always seen. She told them that they had never shared a kiss due to his disfigurement. The first thing the couple did was share their first kiss of many, as they set off on a new chapter of life.

Though Malawi is far away, it was the gift of a lifetime to be able to help make a couple’s first kiss possible. This priceless story made me thankful for my career as a Plastic Surgeon and my ability to play a small part in giving this couple a lifetime of kisses!

No matter who you kiss this Valentine’s Day, try not to take it for granted!

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