Smiles Are Contagious: 4-year-old Spreads Cheer One Smile at a Time

  • Zaidyn
  • Mia
  • Camden
  • Charlie
  • Eliana
  • Harper
  • Jackson


“Zaidyn is beautiful,” Fareen Jivraj doted about her vivacious son. “He is full of love and care. He’s a very confident young boy, who loves unconditionally and innocently.”

The abundant innocence of the 4-year-old is just one of the characteristics that makes Jivraj most proud of her son. She hopes others will get to know Zaidyn for the individual he is, and not pass judgement based on his physical appearance.

Zaidyn was born at Children’s Memorial Hermann at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center in January 2014. Immediately, his parents noticed his facial deformities. Doctors diagnosed Zaidyn with Treacher Collins syndrome, a condition characterized by underdeveloped facial bones and other tissues of the face. Since diagnosis, Zaidyn has undergone a dozen surgeries to align his facial features including eye, craniofacial, cleft palate, ear tube and tissue expansion procedures.

During his treatments, he’s primarily been under the care of Dr. John Teichgraeber, a pediatric plastic surgeon affiliated with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital and the director of the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery in the department of Pediatric Surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. All of Zaidyn’s major surgeries have been completed and future procedures will focus on aligning his eye muscles. Despite everything he’s endured, Zaidyn is like any other 4-year-old.

“Zaidyn has never questioned any of his facial features. Socially, he excels for his age. He has a lot of friends and has done an absolutely amazing job making friends at his Montessori school.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, individuals with Treacher Collins syndrome have normal intelligence, and although some impacted individuals experience hearing or vision loss, Zaidyn has not, which is something for which Jivraj is also grateful.

“His facial deformities do not prevent him from performing any physical activities nor do they impact him in terms of completing everyday tasks such as eating and speaking. From a cognitive perspective, he is on track with his 4-year-old peers. Zaidyn has been blessed to have met all of his developmental milestones on time. We are blessed beyond what words can express,” Jivraj said.

Although the past four years have been a long, and at times, an emotional journey, seeing Zaidyn live a carefree life has been deeply fulfilling for his mom.

“Zaidyn loves to smile, and he’s such a bright and happy young boy. As a mother, I have tears of joy when I see Zaidyn playing at the park with unfamiliar children, sharing his lunch with his school friends, and talking about having friends over for his birthday,” said Jivraj. “He has brought so much happiness and closeness to our family. He’s our warrior!”

Coming Soon to the Rick Smith Gallery

Did you know about 7,000 babies annually are born with a cleft lip and other craniofacial differences? Most of them undergo surgery during the first year of their lives to repair a cleft lip, and require additional surgeries and treatments as they grow. The Smiles are Contagious exhibit at the Rick Smith Gallery located at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC), first floor, Hermann Atrium, will debut in August and highlight the importance of cleft and craniofacial awareness through portraits of children who were born with a cleft or craniofacial difference. Captured by Scott Dalton, the portraits reflect the joy, laughter and happiness that can come from a simple – yet powerful – smile.

Click here for a preview of the children whose stories and photos will be on display at the Rick Smith Gallery, and to learn how you can donate to help children with cleft and craniofacial differences.

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Ali Vise