Chrissy Metz Wants to Help Children, One Smile at a Time
Advocacy The woman behind one of Hollywood's brightest smiles, “This Is Us” star Chrissy Metz, talks about the importance of Operation Smile and bringing awareness to cleft lips and palates.
Chrissy Metz wants to spread awareness of Operation Smile, as well as the impact cleft lips and cleft palates have on kids and adults. Operation Smile started in 1982 and has since grown to be the oldest and largest volunteer-based charity that offers free surgeries for kids born with cleft lip and/or palate or other facial deformities in developing countries.
Cleft lip means that, during pregnancy, when the tissue doesn’t completely join at the lips, it causes an opening in the upper lip that can be either small or rather large and run into the nose. It is also possible for the same thing to occur when the tissue in the roof of the mouth doesn’t completely come together before birth — this is known as cleft palate. According to the CDC, more than 7,000 babies are born with cleft palate, cleft lip or both each year in the United States.
One surgery at a time
Metz first became involved in supporting this cause when a close family member was born with a cleft lip and palate. Seeing how this birth defect affected her family, especially the child, she decided to become an ambassador for Operation Smile.
“It's incredibly exciting to be a part of a cause that completely transforms peoples lives,” Metz says. “I'm grateful to know there is a solution and [that] I can be a part of it.” With a simple 45-minute surgery, the results are seen (and felt) almost immediately by both the patient and families.
"'It's incredibly exciting to be a part of a cause that completely transforms peoples lives.'"
More than a smile
These surgeries aren’t just about fixing the ‘appearance’ of cleft lips and palates, but resolving and preventing other, more serious problems. Eating and drinking are affected, as the food and liquid needs to be redirected; chronic ear infections and potential hearing loss can occur as a result of fluid build-up in the ears; dental problems occur such as missing, malformed, extra or displaced teeth; speech impediments or difficulty speaking could also form.
Contrary to what some might think, the surgery costs less than $300 and can help a child in more ways than one. Because cleft lips and palates are one of the most common birth defects in America, it’s important to speak up about the potential problems and dangers they can cause, as well as sharing how affordable the remedy actually is. Although the cause of cleft lips and palates is still unknown, what is known is the cure the effects of which are life-altering.
“With Operation Smile, you see the results,” says Metz. “You understand the quality of life and the basic needs are essential, and everyone has the right to that.”