ROYAL OAK, Mich. - Imagine handing over your baby to a stranger to travel to a foreign country. To have surgery with a doctor you've never met. To live with a family you don't know.
It sounds unimaginable, but that's the decision the parents of five special children were forced to make in hopes of giving them a normal life. This is their incredible journey.
Just two weeks after surgery, the children dubbed the "Beaumont 5" are back for a check-up.
There are smiles around every corner as Beaumont plastic surgeon Dr. Kongkrit Chaiyasate pops into each room to check on their progress.
"How are you? It looks so good," said Chaiyasate, beaming as he greeted baby Adama.
The children were all born with birth defects known as cleft lips or cleft palates. They've traveled from rural villages in Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa, for this life-changing, perhaps lifesaving, surgery.
PART ONE: 'Beaumont 5' begin journey of hope
The host families can't stop smiling today either.
"I'm overwhelmed with how the doctor, the surgeon, was able to make a lip out of -- where there was just nothing there. It's amazing," said Betsy Weiss, Salamata's host mom.
There is still more healing to do, but the results are already incredible.
"The biggest transformation for sure. I cried when I first saw him," said Jamie Newkirk, Abdoul's host mom. "He actually has a nose. He did not have a nose. He just had a giant gaping hole in his face basically. He can eat better. He can breathe better."
But it's an adjustment to be sure, especially for five-year-old Zoey, the oldest of the group.
"The first time she took a drink, she panicked. She's like, 'What do I do with this?'" said Zoey's host mom Sarah Boluyt.
The children were brought here by an Indiana-based organization called Ray of Hope Medical Missions. It runs completely on private donations.
"It costs about $7000 for us to bring a child in," explained founder Rebecca Ghent. "That includes all of the escort fees, transportation, medical testing, and then everything once they get to the United States is donated."
All of the medical care for the children is being donated by Beaumont Hospital and the individual surgeons. The host families pay for the child's food and other needs.
Three of the children will need additional surgery to correct other problems or fine-tune their features. The other two, Adama and Aime, will soon be ready to go back home.
"The doctor cleared him, he's done. Now he just gets to grow," said Janice Hilleary, Aime's host mom. "He won't be judged for looking different."
It's a sentiment echoed by many today.
"I just think he now has a chance of acceptance in his community. His parents have a chance to get to know him and love him without fear," said Newkirk.
For the host families, today is also bittersweet. This is the result they prayed for, but they've fallen in love with these kids.
"We're going to miss him," said April DenBesten, Adama's host mom. "We've had him since he was a newborn."
But they know, their families are waiting in Africa.
"We're sending home a happy healthy baby," said DenBesten. "They make that sacrifice to send him here. Then we make that sacrifice to send him home. So that is our goal."
A goal that brings smiles all around.
To learn more about Ray of Hope Medical Missions or to make a donation, click here.
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