Djibouti, Djibouti– When Smile Train East Africa Manager, Dr. Esther Njoroge visited Djibouti in February, she was not sure what to find. The tiny country’s lone Smile Train partner Al Rahma Hospital had been dormant for almost two years. Determined to revive the hospital’s Smile Train program, Dr. Njoroge decided she needed to visit the partner. This would be her first visit and what she found more than pleasantly surprised her.
When Dr. Njoroge arrived at Al Rahma Hospital located in Djibouti’s capital, also named Djibouti, she was met by a very warm and welcoming staff, as well as an impeccable hospital serving the poor community of the country. Located on the Horn of Africa neighboring Somalia to the southeast and Ethiopia to the southwest, Djibouti is one of the smallest countries in the world. Of its population of 900,000, 40 percent live on less than two dollars per day.
During the time that Dr. Njoroge had thought the hospital had suspended their Smile Train program, the staff had actually mobilized 45 cleft patients to receive free Smile Train surgeries. For a country with little more than 20 estimated cleft births each year, this was an impressive total. “What do we do with these patients?” the staff asked. Their previous surgeon had left, but the staff at the hospital knew they needed to help these patients.
Dr. Njoroge quickly got in touch with an Egyptian surgeon living and working in Kenya, Dr. Ashraf Emarah. He agreed to not only visit to provide cleft surgery, but also provide cleft surgery training to another surgeon at the hospital eager to learn. On March 15th, less than a month after Dr. Njoroge called him, Dr. Ashraf made his way to Djibouti. During his two-week stay each one of the 45 cleft patients who had been waiting received free surgery, plus another, for a total of 46 new smiles!
Smile Train partner Amin Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Hospital celebrates 1,000th cleft surgery
Bahawalpur, Pakistan–Smile Train partner surgeon Dr. Mughese Amin recently wrote to inform us of his hospital’s 1,000th Smile Train surgery. A Smile Train partner since 2008, Dr. Mughese manages his Smile Train program at Amin Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Hospital, which he founded. He is also an Associate Professor & Head of the Department Plastic Surgery at Quaid E Azam Medical College and Victoria Hospital located in Bahawalpur, Pakistan.
Our 1,000th Smile Train patient, one-and-a-half-year-old Abdullah, son of Abdur Rehman, came to Amin Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Hospital after his father saw an advertisement about Smile Train in a newspaper. Abdullah’s father told me that this was his only son after six daughters and that Abdullah is very precious for him and his family. When I met the family I saw that the father of the child also had a cleft lip. This chap had spent a whole of his life with this cleft. I asked him if I could operate on him as well, but he said he was too old now and would come later for his surgery. He was not much interested in his surgery at the time.
Abdullah’s father said he is very poor so he could not afford surgery. When I examined Abdullah his father asked me hesitantly what was the fee for surgery. I said, “Nothing. It is free.” He was surprised when I told him this. Very unfortunately the person from his village who brought son and father to my hospital took 3,000 Rupees (about $30 USD) from them claiming it was a doctor fee. I then called that chap and got Abdullah’s father his money back.
Please join everyone here at Smile Train in congratulating Dr. Mughese and his hospital for this huge smilestone!
Madurai, India—While many children around the world were busy playing with the new toys that Santa left for them under the tree and finishing the rest of the leftover Christmas cookies, one small child in Madurai, India lay alone outdoors waiting to be discovered by a kind-hearted soul.
On December 28, 2012 at 2 a.m., a one-and-a-half-year-old boy was abandoned at the Madurai Government Hospital, presumably by nervous and teary parents who were not sure what else to do. Their little boy had been born with a cleft.
After being discovered by hospital staff, the boy was then transferred to Karumathur Clariton Mercy Home, a caring place for orphaned children.
The home also gave the boy a name: Amuthan. Luckily for Amuthan, the staff at Karumathur had heard of Smile Train and wanted their newest addition to have the chance to receive the free, life-changing surgery the organization provided.
Amuthan was taken to Smile Train hospital Meenakshi Mission Hospital & Research Centre and had his cleft repaired on February 15, 2013 by Dr. Panchavarnam. Four months to day when Amuthan was left at the hospital, he is now a healthy, happy boy waiting to be adopted by a loving family.
Sunyani, Ghana — Smile Train partner surgeon Dr Kofi Amponsah of Regional Hospital Sunyani sent us this touching account of one of his patients, two-year-old Kwame Antwi. Kwame’s life started on a sad note, but due to the care he received at Regional Hospial Sunyani, a Smile Train partner since 2008, he has a new life ahead. Our deepest thanks to Dr. Amponsah, his team, and our supporters for changing this little boy’s life forever.
This cleft child’s mother died while she was giving birth to him. What worsen[ed] his plight was [his] cleft lip so he was tagged as an outcast…without empathy from his grandmother this child would have been living without a smile on his face. But Thanks to Smile Train and Regional Hospital Sunyani, the cleft has been repaired and the child’s and grandmother’s faces are full of smile when they were discharged home on last Monday March, 18th 2013.
— Dr. Kofi Amponsah
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Atiku, a five-year-old girl from Ethiopia has lived with her cleft, and the suffering it caused, all of her short life. Her mother abandoned the family because of her cleft. Born 600km from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s most populous city and capital), Atiku and her father traveled for two days to reach Smile Train partner hospital, Addis Hiwot Hospital. Her father, who has five other children, could not hide his joy as he held her after surgery. After her free cleft surgery, Atiku was changed for life and her father knew it, saying, “Atiku will one day be a teacher to change the community.”
His laugh was hearty as he recited how it has been difficult for him living with Atiku because of her cleft lip. It had been “hell on earth” he said, but now his wife might return after Atikus’ operation.
João Pessoa, Brazil — Born in a poor seaside community, Jandira da Silva grew up self–conscious and insecure. So much so that she didn’t like spending time with other people — all because she was born with a cleft lip.
Like many people in Brazil, and around the world, Jandira wasn’t aware that clefts can be repaired. When she finally discovered it was possible for her to smile like everyone else in her village, she was apprehensive. Looking back on how lonely her life had been, she chose to have the cleft surgery that her family never could have afforded. At the age of 17, her life changed forever when she had her cleft repaired. For the next few years, Jandira continued to receive free follow–up care at Smile Train partner hospital Instituto de Fissura Labiopalatal da Paraiba.
Jandira received not only a new smile, but a new outlook on life.
Today, she is married and a mother of an eight-month-old boy who is her greatest pride and joy! According to Jandira’s own words,
Before I was closed to life, if I knew, I would have married before! My husband is a good man, my son is perfect and my family is happy!”
Kampala, Uganda — At Smile Train, patient safety is our number one priority. With this in mind, Dr. Sarah Hodges, an anesthesiologist, and Rona Breese, a registered nurse, sought to improve the care Smile Train patients receive in the recovery ward, which is as important as the care a patient receives on the operating table. Both women are UK-transplants who now live and work full time in Uganda and worked at Smile Train partner hospital CoRSU for many years. Together, they developed a training program to improve the safety and effectiveness of post-operative nursing care for children.
This innovative, three-day training course combines lectures, demonstrations, group discussions, and scenario-based activities. Among the topics included in the training are post-operative care following cleft surgery, post-operative complications, monitoring vital signs, and pediatric basic life support.
Since its launch in November 2011, the course has been delivered to eight groups of participants in six countries throughout Africa. The participants are comprised of one to two nurses from each Smile Train hospital in the country where the training is held. Upon completion, the nurses return to their hospitals and teach the material to their colleagues. Over 165 nurses have completed the program, all of whom are female.
Throughout the course we as trainers emphasize the importance of the role of the nurse and the value that we and Smile Train places upon nurses. We recognize the difficulties that they face in the workplace and poor recognition of the nursing profession. We aim to teach them in a way that recognizes their knowledge and experiences and we try to instill self-belief and purpose in what they do. Nurses need to believe that they can make a difference by what they do and we repeatedly emphasize this. This philosophy underpins the training and we feel that this is an important element of the training that should be retained.
“We are confident that those nurses who complete the training will leave with increased understanding and competence in cleft care, we hope they will share this with their colleagues.”
In just three days, nurses who complete the course show an average improvement of 54% between pre- and post-course evaluations.