Zak Coates is a nine-year-old boy who has had to deal with a remarkable amount of adversity in his short life. He was born with an extremely rare form of cleft lip and palate, Tessier Type 4.
The prognosis was not good when he arrived in the world; his doctors warned his parents that the boy was unlikely to ever have a normal life. However, his mom and dad were determined to give their son all the opportunities they could, and after several surgeries, he is now able to go to school and do most of the things that typical nine-year-olds do.
Unfortunately, even though he has beaten the odds, he still has many facial deformities, including a misshapen mouth, missing teeth and an oversized blind eye. As a result of this, he still is frequently bullied and made fun of by other children and adults alike. Random strangers walking by sometimes throw insults his way. He has often been called a monster, but when this happens, he responds with good humor, growling or otherwise acting scary.
More often, though, he greets insults with a smile, hoping that those who treat him badly will see what a kind soul he is and choose friendship over enmity. Zak, who attends a private school in Cyprus, has impressed his doctors, and his resilience has served as an inspiration to many people who know him or have heard his story. This remarkable young man will continue to face life’s challenges with good grace.