DUBLIN, OH (WCMH) — Every year, the Memorial Tournament, with the support of Nationwide, celebrates Nationwide Children’s Hospital Patients through its Patients Champions program.
This year, eight kids and their families will get the full VIP experience tomorrow during the pro-am.
One of them is Joaquin Duran, who has a smile that can light up a room — and enough energy to fill it up.
“Without knowing his history, you would never know by the way that he acts or the way he presents himself,. you would never know how hard a road it’s been to get him to his 8 years,” said Joaquin’s mother Rebecca Duran.
Joaquin was born with cleft lip and palate — a condition where a baby’s lip or mouth does not form completely during pregnancy.
Only one in 700 babies are born with the condition
“My thumb is pretty wide. I could pass my thumb completely through this nostril and touch either side. It was from his sinus clearly all the way to his lip. No gums or anything formed in that area,” said Rebecca. “His first two years were tough. This was basically home. If he wasn’t sick, he was having a surgery. The silver lining is you know he’s going to be okay eventually. It’s just getting to that point. It can be a little tough sometimes.”
Joaquin’s first surgery to close his lip was at just 4 months old. Since then, he’s had 13 more surgeries — including getting a bone graft just 4 weeks ago.
“It is to build up where he had no bone in his hard palate here under his gums and that will help him adjust teeth as he grows,” said Rebecca, “and then he’ll have some nasal surgeries when he’s done growing. to this point, he’s taken it awesome. he’s proud of his scars. they’re his battle scars. he can make up great stories about them.”
Thanks to the great work of doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, his cleft lip and palate are nearly unnoticeable.
“I’ve changed a lot, my own self,” said Joaquin, “Like your body changes. You grow. Then your body changes like you can sometimes keep the scars or they go away.”
He loves to read and loves to build things, and lately, even taken up the sport of lacrosse.
And what are his thoughts on being a patient champion?
“It’s great because I get to represent my hospital that I’ve been to for 14 surgeries.”
Joaquin is not fully in the clear yet but the hope is that any future surgeries will only be cosmetic and will come at his discretion.
As for his big day tomorrow, he will get to meet most of the best golfers in the world, Jack and Barbara Nicklaus and get to have his very own Muirfield milkshake.