A Gift for Amuthan

Dr. Panchavarnam, a caretaker from Karumathur Clariton Mercy Home, and Amuthan after his free, life-changing cleft surgery.

Dr. Panchavarnam, a caretaker from Karumathur Clariton Mercy Home, and Amuthan after his free, life-changing cleft surgery.

Dr. Panchavarnam and Amuthan before his cleft surgery.
Dr. Panchavarnam and Amuthan before his cleft surgery.

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.

A New Life Ahead

Smile Train patient Kwame Antwi in the arms of his grandmother after free cleft lip surgery at our partner Regional Hospital Sunyani in Ghana

Sunyani, GhanaSmile 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

Smile Train patient Kwame Antwi after free cleft surgery

Three Days Later, Atiku’s Father Can’t Help But Smile

Atiku's father has a new smile too after his daughter's free cleft lip surgery from Smile Train

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.

A Life She Never Would Have Dreamed

Jandira da Silva received cleft surgery at age 17, now she has a beautiful family and a life she never would have dreamed of

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!”

Increasing Patient Safety in Africa: Training Nurses in Post-Operative Care

Nurses at Smile Train partner Gertrude's Children's hospital in Kenya utilizing their new training

Nurses at Smile Train partner Gertude’s Children’s Hospital in Kenya, implement the skills they learned in the post-operative care training course

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.

Paying It Forward: Angieleca’s Story

Former Smile Train patient Angieleca is now a nurse helping others with cleft

Quezon City, PhilippinesThe story below was submitted by former Smile Train patient Angieleca Hayahay. When she was young, she had her cleft repaired by Philippine Band of Mercy (PBM). Becoming a Smile Train partner in 2002, PBM has gone on to provide over 10,500 cleft surgeries to children across the Philippines. While Angieleca’s first surgeries for her cleft lip and cleft palate were done before 2002, all of her follow–up care was provided by PBM’s Smile Train Program.

Former Smile Train patient Angieleca before her free cleft palate surgery

When I was three months old, our neighbor saw me cuddled by my mother while being put to sleep and she told my mother to take me to Philippine Band of Mercy, a foundation helping poor children with cleft deformities. I was then brought right away to PBM and went for assessment, medical evaluation and laboratory for the first intended surgery on my cleft lip. At nine months, I successfully passed the laboratory exams and had my cleft lip surgery and then, at age two, surgery to repair my cleft palate. I continued to have care for my cleft under the Smile Train Treatment Grant given to PBM. Our family is very grateful that there are organizations that help poor people like me get free medical treatment.

I’m the eldest daughter of Sergio and Clarita Hayahay. We live in a simple house together with my two siblings. My father is an ordinary government employee in the Department of Public Works & Highways. My mother is a simple housewife who takes care of the house and us children. I’m the only one in the family with a cleft lip & palate anomaly, although my mother’s eldest sister has the same cleft deformity like mine. With God’s divine mercy and hard work of my parents, I finished my nursing course and became a registered nurse on 2009.

Former Smile Train patient Angieleca studying to be a nurse, she now works at partner hospital Philippine Band of Mercy

At present, I’m working with Philippine Band of Mercy as a staff nurse. I’m so thankful to be part of the organization that helped me and gave me the opportunity of employment. I really love to help and to give inspiration to parents and patients suffering from cleft. I want to be an effective encourager and share the experiences I went through life due to my cleft — I want to enlighten the minds of parents and especially the patients to keep pursuing their life to be normal.

In most cases people discriminate and judge anybody with facial deformities. I know the hardships and painful feelings of being discriminated by others just because of a different physical appearance. I experienced it several times. When I was studying, I applied for work in a call center company to help my parents in financing my studies. The examiner came to me while I was taking the exam and told me that the company had a protocol not to hire personnel with cleft deformity like me, even though I had surgery to fix it. I felt so depressed when I heard it – all I wanted was to have a part–time job to help my parents sustain my school expenses. Most of the time, I experienced being bullied in the community I grew up. I studied hard to excel and to show that I’m not different. I’m like everyone else. I’m a normal person that just happened to be born with cleft.

Now, I enjoy life and I’m more confident.

We wish Angieleca all the best and send our gratitude as she continues to help Smile Train patients throughout the Philippines.