Ido-Ekiti, Nigeria – While Smile Train partners provide over 300 surgeries a day worldwide, there are always a few patients that stand out in their minds. Children who leave a mark on the doctors and nurses for a determination in their eyes, a heartrending story, a gentle squeeze of the hand, or any of the infinite little moments that strike something deep within our hearts and stay with us forever. Recently, we asked some of our partner hospitals to share some of their most memorable stories over the years. The staff of Federal Medical Centre Ido-Ekiti in Nigeria shared the story of Abiodun Sunday, which they consider to be their proudest moment of being a Smile Train partner.
“We had the skills, but not the resources to provide cleft surgery to poor patients.”
When Abiodun Sunday was born, his father abandoned his family due to his son’s cleft lip, leaving his wife without any income to take care of their son. Luckily, the hospital staff were able to convince her that Abiodun’s cleft was not an evil omen or a curse, but an easily corrected birth defect and that she should bring him to a hospital when he was big enough for surgery. Abiodun first came to the Federal Medical Centre Ido-Ekiti as an 8-month old infant in February 2007 cradled in his mother’s arms. The doctors reaffirmed her hope that her son could lead a normal life after cleft surgery, but that hope shattered like glass when they told her the cost. An unemployed, single mother who bent over backwards to simply feed her son, she would never be able to save enough to afford the surgery her son needed.
The hospital’s cleft team had the skills to provide excellent cleft care, but they lacked the resources to be able to provide it to poor patients. Despite her pleas, they did not have the money to provide Abiodun with his surgery and had to turn her away.
That was before Federal Medical Centre Ido-Ekiti became a Smile Train Partner.
By the end of 2008, FMC Ido-Ekiti had passed all criteria and been approved as a Smile Train partner, providing its first Smile Train sponsored surgeries in early 2009. Meanwhile, Abiodun’s mother had been determined to make sure that her son lived as normal a life as possible, fighting hard to protect him from the stares of strangers and taunts that he was too young to understand. But she knew that if he was going to be normal, in a few years he would have to go to school, where she would not be able to protect him. Luckily, one day at her local market, a stranger’s stare changed everything when a good Samaritan told her about an advertisement he saw that through Smile Train the very hospital she had visited before was providing free cleft surgeries to patients that coudn’t afford to pay for it themselves.
With faith restored, his mother returned to the hospital. The staff screened the oddly familiar young boy and, to their astonishment, they were able to pull up Abiodun’s old record. On August 20, 2009, Abiodun woke up from general anesthesia with a new smile thanks to Smile Train donors and the skilled hands of Dr. Babatunde Aregbesola and his staff who were finally able to fulfill a promise of hope two years in the making.