Experiential narrative by Christian J. Hadjipateras
I have always held the strong belief that whatever direction one takes in their lives, be it by profession or otherwise, helping to make a difference to others is priceless. I admit that this passion stems from my own experiences. The upcoming creation of the Face It Together Foundation has been a goal of mine for many years. Face It Together raises money for the Hellenic Craniofacial Centre, which in turn offers invaluable support and expertise for children born with various craniofacial issues.
Ι myself was born in London in 1984 with a range of complex craniofacial anomalies, which included a severe cleft lip, hypertelorism (where the orbits are too far apart) and later developed hydrocephalus which in turn brought on meningitis. Over the years, I underwent multiple surgeries to correct the issues. Owing to the complex conditions I was born with, only major craniofacial intervention would be sufficient in terms of results. My parents at the time were understandably reluctant to pursue that path because of the many risks involved. They therefore travelled to Paris to meet Dr. Paul Tessier, who was the pioneer of craniofacial surgery having invented many of the techniques that are used today. Although Dr. Tessier officially retired in 1990, he accepted my parents request to ‘come out of retirement’ to operate on me. My parents’ simple logic was that if such a mammoth surgery had to be done, then who better to turn to than the pioneer himself. This remarkable man laid the foundations for all my future surgeries. Thanks to my parents continued determination to get the best for me, I was operated on by some of the best reconstructive surgeons around. Aside from London, I was operated on in Paris, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Having spent the majority of my youth going through countless surgeries, one thing always struck me. While those times were tough, I realised how fortunate I was that my family and I were able to afford the costs involved. I have always appreciated that that is not always the case for others. Parents who are faced with the ordeal of seeing their child having to undergo complex and risky surgeries is a challenge in itself, but to have the added burden of meeting the costs involved adds to their worries.
Since 2014 I have been involved at associate board level of a Chicago-based organisation, Face the Future Foundation, which raised money for the Craniofacial Centre of the University of Illinois. The hard work of the team at Face the Future has raised millions for children born with similar anomalies to those I was born with.
Face It Together Foundation is born
I have been living in Athens on and off for nearly a decade now. Soon after moving here permanently, I learned of the Hellenic Craniofacial Centre, which was founded in 1996 by the late Dr. Alexander Stratoudakis, who himself trained under Dr. Tessier. His vision was to offer a centre in Greece after discovering that many families with children who were born with craniofacial anomalies were being forced to travel abroad for help. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Stratoudakis on a couple of occasions some years ago. The team is now headed by his colleague, Dr. Kostas Alexandrou. Having visited the centre, I can see first-hand the dedication of this team and their tireless efforts to help, which has only reaffirmed my determination to help create Face it Together. Thanks, in part to Fotini Androulaki, founder of Volta magazine, it is now coming to fruition.
Go on Tiger, go on Tiger!!!
I’ll end this with a story of my own. I was at the same school as the son of the legendary actor Peter O’Toole. At the end of the school day he would sometimes collect his son and he and my mother would chat at the school gates now and then. He had a nickname for me, Tiger. Whenever he saw me he would always say ‘allo there Tiger, how’s it going? One year during sports day, I must have been no more than eight years old, it was my turn to race with ten other boys. I started off strongly but as the race went on my stamina started to drop and I began falling behind to the point where I came in last. As I was passing the crowds of parents and boys towards the finish line huge cheers for me rang out. And then Peter forced his way to the front and was shouting ‘go on Tiger, go on Tiger!!!’. I’ll never forget that…how could anyone forget such a figure leading the cheering for them? From then on, whenever I was in difficulty for whatever reason, I’d remember his words.
Despite having gone through multiple surgeries myself, I was lucky enough to have had the love and support from my wonderful parents, sister and extended family. It’s now my turn to give something back. The team at the Hellenic Craniofacial Centre are determined to help those children who need it…and you can help by joining Face It Together.