The Smile of a Sick Child
Written and directed by Gerard Thomas Straub
In 2005 I made a sweet film titled The Patients of a Saint, which featured the heroic work of an American doctor who cared for very sick and impoverished children in Peru. Before moving to Peru, Dr. Tony Lazzara was the head of the neo-natal care unit of a university hospital, a high-end sophisticated doctor who dared to walk away from his privileged life and enter into the harsh world of extreme poverty and weakness.
The clinic he opened quickly turned into a home for as many as 60 kids who were too sick to be treated on an outpatient basis. Moreover, he the kids lived to far from the clinic to travel back and forth to their homes. The children suffer from a wide array illnesses, everything ranging from tuberculosis, cerebral palsy, leukemia, chronic diarrhea, and malnutrition to cleft palates and missing or deformed limbs. All the medical treatment, medication, physical therapy, housing, food and education, are provided for free while a child is under his care, sometimes for many years.
In late August of 2013, I returned to Dr. Tony’s home, known as Hogar San Francisco de Asis, to spend time with the doctor. I was so moved by his continued dedication to the kids, two of whom were featured in the first film, I decided to update the story. While the story is laced with heartache and anguish, hope burns brightly through the pain and suffering. Dr. Tony is a candle in the darkness of crippling, chronic poverty, bringing hope and healing to some of the sick children of Peru. Dr. Tony has given his life so countless impoverished children could have a life.