Boy flying back to South America after life-changing surgery

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A South American toddler is headed home after receiving a life-changing surgery in Grand Rapids.

Seventeen-month-old Diraj Lackan underwent cleft lip, cleft palate surgery at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital less than two months ago.

The toddler has been staying with Roxanne Bareman, of Grandville, and her family the whole time.

The host family connected through Bareman’s daughter Andrea Czyzewicz.

Czyzewicz is a dental hygienist who was on a mission trip in Diraj’s village last year when his family brought him in with a severe cleft palate, asking if someone could help.

“I called my mom on the phone and said, ‘are you ready to have a baby? Take care of a baby? Because he’s coming,” Czyzewicz said.

Bareman has taken care of Diraj for months. She has been documenting his medical journey for his own mother back at home.

“I send her pictures all the time,” Bareman said. “She says ‘oh he’s so handsome.’ She can’t thank everyone involved enough.”

Doctors at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital repaired Diraj’s cleft palate in hopes of giving him a better life.

“Often in other countries children with such an obvious facial deformity are outcasts and ostracized,” Dr. John Girotto of Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital said. “They don’t have a chance at all. To be able to put all of that together really affords him his best chance going forward.”

Diraj is the fifth child Bareman has hosted through Healing the Children, an organization that brings in children from third world countries who need help they can’t get at home.

Helen Salan, the executive director of the Michigan/Ohio chapter of Healing the Children said its rewarding to see Diraj’s progress.

“You now that child will have a normal life and you can’t beat that. A normal, healthy life,” Salan said.

Diraj will soon reunite with his family in Guyana.

Bareman said she’s ready to host another child.

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