Groundbreaking Cleft Palate Surgery Changes 20-Year-Old Patient’s Life

A boy who was born with a cleft palate didn’t speak until almost the age of 3. He always hoped that surgery could improve his quality of life, and finally, after almost two decades, a life-changing operation has achieved exactly that. “I’m overly satisfied with the results,” David Bufkin, 20, said in a Banner Health news release. “It was a long road worth walking!” David Bufkin, 20, of Sun City, Ariz., was born with a cleft palate didn’t speak until almost the age of three. (Courtesy of Banner Health) Bufkin’s cleft palate, and a 1-inch deficit in the length of his upper jaw compared to the lower, meant that he was plagued by a major speech impediment, trouble sleeping, and trouble chewing food growing up. He learned to speak through years of extensive speech therapy. Dr. Robert Wood of Banner Children’s at Desert in Mesa, Arizona, was the surgeon tasked with Bufkin’s most recent and most drastic surgery. “Because of the severity of his cleft, the upper jaw did not express adequate growth,” Wood told AZ BIG Media, “and as the remainder of his face grew normally, his upper jaw and mid-face became very, very recessed.” (Courtesy of Banner Health) During the hour-long procedure, Wood removed his 20-year-old patient’s upper jaw from the base of his skull and attached it to a halo-shaped brace around his head, the news release said. The brace anchored Bufkin’s skull and facial bones in place for two months, with the goal of shifting his upper jaw forward a full 3 centimeters at a rate of 1 millimeter per day, plus resting time. Catering to Bufkin’s religious sentiments, the Banner statement noted that Wood, who is a “pioneer in blood conservation,” ensured that his patient did not require a blood transfusion during his surgery, using presurgical iron supplements and blood-count-boosting medication to prevent Bufkin from losing too many red blood cells. Wood expects that his patient will experience some relapsing of the jaw after surgery, although orthodontic bands and braces will help. David Bufkin with an external distractor. (Courtesy of Banner Health) “We moved his bone there, but the rest of his body would like to be three centimeters back,” Wood told AZ BIG Media. The surgeon added that the postoperative head brace is “a real psychosocial hardship” for patients, and takes this into account in Bufkin’s aftercare plan. “This is a life-changing event for him,” Wood said. “He was pretty deformed, and now [his family] thinks he looks like his father or grandfather.” David Bufkin after surgery and recovery. (Courtesy of Banner Health) After his surgery, Bufkin can breathe more easily, exercise more comfortably, and sleep peacefully, the news release said. With his teeth in better alignment, he is also far better able to chew food, speak, and smile. “[I’m] thankful Dr. Wood has finished bringing this challenging feat to fruition,” Bufkin said in the news release. Bufkin’s family agreed, exclaiming that it’s “almost like having a whole new son.” “[B]ut of course he’s still the same kid I know,” said Bufkin’s mother, Jessica Barnes. “He looks like an entirely different person. I’ve been waiting for this for him for 20 years, and we are so grateful,” she added. (Courtesy of Banner Health) We would love to hear your stories! You can share them with us at

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Community Rallies to Help Harvest Soybeans as Farmer Recovers From Triple Bypass Surgery

When an urgent heart surgery prevented a Minnesota farmer from harvesting his soybeans, his supportive farming community couldn’t see his crops go to waste. Thus, 40 farmers put their own work on hold and stepped up to help their friend. At first, Mike Hanen, from near the town of Milan, was reticent to seek medical help, knowing how important it was to tend to his acreage during harvest season. “I finally gave in and walked into the house and told my wife, ‘You better take me to the emergency room because something is not right,’” Hanen regaled to WCCO. (Courtesy of Tiffany Moen) At the hospital, doctors diagnosed 99 percent blockage in two of Hanen’s arteries. “I probably would’ve had a major heart attack,” the farmer reflected. “I probably wouldn’t have made it through.” Hanen needed triple bypass surgery, after which he was instructed to rest. However, as he reluctantly put his feet up, his community did the opposite. The farmer’s friend Gary Olson, and his brother, Delane, spearheaded a group of over 40 farmers who lent manpower to a benevolent mission: to harvest Hanen’s crops on his behalf. “I just told him don’t worry about the harvest. It’ll be taken care of,” said Gary. (Courtesy of Tiffany Moen) “He’s always been there for everybody else,” added Delane. “It’s really a special community. It really is.” Cool, dry conditions in early September jumpstarted the soybean harvest in Minnesota. According to crop reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, by Sept. 22, 7 percent of the state’s soybean crops had already been harvested, running almost two weeks ahead of the annual schedule compared to 2019. The timely support of Hanen’s farming community quite likely saved his crops from ruin. (Courtesy of Tiffany Moen) On Sept. 26, more than 40 farmers with six combine harvesters descended upon Hanen’s four farms, comprising 400 acres, to harvest soybeans. With their forces combined, the impressive haul was collected in just three hours. Without their support, it is believed that the harvest would have taken Hanen and his brother at least four days in good weather. (Courtesy of Tiffany Moen) Hanen, a week post-surgery, looked on with immense gratitude. “I don’t really know what to say to them, it’s kind of emotional for me. I’m very thankful for it,” he told WCCO. A fortnight post-surgery, Hanen reported that he was doing well and getting stronger with each passing day. “He’s tough as nails so I knew he’d make it,” his friend Gary praised. (Courtesy of Tiffany Moen) We would love to hear your stories! You can share them with us at

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Car Crash Saves Man’s Life, Sparks Chain Reaction of Positivity: ‘Divine Intervention’

Within just one week, a Texas resident had three life-changing experiences: He suffered a serious car accident, got diagnosed with a massive spinal tumor, and learned that he was going to be a father for the first time. Six months on, Julio Molina, 28, from Denton County, lives on to regale his story. He said that the crash leading to the discovery of his tumor was truly a “divine intervention” and nothing less than a blessing in disguise. (Illustration – Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock) On that fateful day in April, Molina had lost control of his car and crashed into a tree, reported KENS 5. He walked away with nothing but bumps and bruises but took himself to the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital as a precautionary measure. A CT scan reaped unexpected results. Molina had a massive tumor, a schwannoma, growing on his spine. He needed surgery but was reticent to proceed for fear of contracting the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus. “I kind of didn’t want to believe it. It definitely did shake me,” Molina told the news outlet. Molina said he fell into a depression and asked God for a sign, reported KENS 5. Within days, one came; Molina found out he was going to become a father. It gave him a reason to fight. Molina said: “To me that was the sign that I needed. It was like, ‘Hey, you have a reason to fight for, don’t give up, there’s so much more life for you.’” (Courtesy of Texas Health Resources) As a pre-surgical patient at Texas Health Presbyterian, Molina was subjected to numerous precautions against the virus. Texas Health neurosurgeon Dr. Ricky Kalra performed an eight-hour spinal surgery to remove Molina’s lemon-sized tumor on June 29. “Located at the base of his skull, the tumor was compressing his cervical spinal cord and the vertebral artery,” Dr. Kalra said in a Texas Health news release. The surgeon removed Molina’s corroded vertebrae and then performed a spinal fusion using pins. Because of their size and location, Dr. Kalra said, schwannomas can be devastating to the patient by causing muscle weakness, numbness, hearing problems, and even facial paralysis. Molina had been experiencing weak symptoms for as long as two years but had assumed they owed to a pinched nerve in his back and nothing more severe. “I didn’t know it,” he said in the news release. (Illustration – Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock) After surgery came physical therapy. “I started out using a walker, and then the therapists tied a belt around my waist to help me with my balance,” Molina said. “By the time I left, I was walking without assistance, which was great.” Another blessing came back with his biopsy. Despite its size and complexity, Molina’s tumor was benign, noncancerous. Currently, Molina is back at home and has returned to work. His daughter, Presley, is due on Jan. 1. The first-time father said he is overwhelmed by gratitude for the chain of events that arguably saved his life. “I think this car accident sparked a chain reaction in my life,” Molina told KENS 5. “I think that it was definitely divine intervention … after this, I’m grateful for everything I have.” “I’m just grateful I still have the opportunity to be alive,” he said. We would love to hear your stories! You can share them with us at

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