Contrary to popular belief, Smile Train helps cleft patients of all ages. We are often asked by partners if we have an age limit for surgery, and the answer is no: we will help any person with a cleft, regardless of their age or their ability to pay. In parts of the world where clefts are often left untreated, we often hear about elderly cleft patients. What could be more bittersweet than the story of 75 year-old man receiving cleft lip surgery? The joy of finally getting treatment mingles with the anguish of 75 tough years with a facial deformity and a new awareness of the simplicity of the surgery.
Here are the stories of some older Smile Train patients from Ethio-Tebib Hospital in Ethiopia:
Haji, 75, has five children and his second also has a cleft lip. He said he stayed all these years suffering from the stigma of his cleft condition because of lack of access and financial support to the treatment. Today he has been operated on and he is happy and grateful.
Abdu, 58, said he got cleft lip because his mother laughed at a cleft lip person while she was pregnant. He also said that the wife of his own uncle laughed at him seeing that he had cleft lip and herself gave birth to a cleft child who died at the age of two years.
His cleft was repaired, and he was also given counseling and advice on cleft lip condition so that he can also pass this information to his family and to the community.
Nuri, 50, is a old poor farmer and had cleft lip in addition to a dental condition. He got dental care and advice and his cleft was repaired and he said now he will return back to his family and community being a happy man.