Patient Stories

Francisco - Mexico

Francisco was born with a cleft lip and palate and subsequently was abandoned by his parents because of this ailment. Because he was so young when they were separated, Francisco doesn’t remember anything about his family. He spent several years living with a foster family in Nogales, Sonora, but was forced to leave after he reached a certain age because the foster family preferred to focus on raising younger children. Francisco recently moved into an orphanage in Hermosillo.

When he was younger, Francisco had an initial surgical repair for his cleft lip and palate, but he unfortunately continues to have difficulty with speech and articulation. During the annual October CSI mission to Hermosillo, a man who referred to himself as Francisco’s tutor brought him to the hospital to be evaluated by the CSI volunteer surgical team. Francisco’s tutor, along with his friends who work at a local garage, have taken Francisco under their wings and are trying to help him succeed in life.

Francisco had his cleft palate repaired by CSI volunteer surgeon Dr.Kofi Boahene. The surgery went very well, and Dr. Boahene was very optimistic that the procedure would help Francisco to speak more clearly. For now, Francisco will be staying in Hermosillo, where he will receive excellent follow-up care by the CIMA hospital volunteers and staff, including speech therapy and orthodontics with Dr. Arturo Moreno.

It takes a village to raise a child.

Ina - Mexico

Tiny Inari, only three months old, was carried into the Hermosillo CIMA Hospital screening room by her very frightened parents. Throughout the initial evaluation day Inari's mother, clutched her baby daughter to her and tried, unsucessfully, not to cry. Dad, ever stoic by their side, would smile grimly and nod but say nothing. After Inari's cleft lip surgery was successfully completed she was reunited with her anxious and expectant parents in the recovery room. As they gazed down at their sleeping baby with a newly repaired lip, their faces turned from anxious fear to joyful smiles. Their relief and joy was palpable. Inari's stoic strong father dissolved to tears as he stroked his baby girl's head and held his wife. He thanked the surgeon again and again, who simply replied: "That's why we do this."

Noorjahan - Bangladesh

Noorjahan is a 22 year old woman, the eldest of three girls in her family, living in rural Bangladesh. She was born with a severe facial cleft (split in the skin) starting in her upper lip, extending through her cheek and into an empty eye socket.

Because of Noorjahan's appearance, she and her family have been shunned by their community; she never went to school, rarely left her families’ modest home, and kept her face covered.

Despite being turned away again and again by local professionals and international teams, Noorjahan and her parents traveled to Rangpur Medical College in November 2011 after hearing that Children’s Surgery International would be there for one week, hopeful that this time they may be offered help. Imagine how difficult this must of been, wondering if Noorjahan would be turned away yet again, facing the stares, and experiencing the shame that accompanied leaving home.

When the family arrived at the Rangpur Medical College, the CSI team had already seen all the waiting patients, and had set the busy surgical schedule for the week. The local staff approached the team, asking if they would please consider evaluating just one more patient.

This time, Noorjahan and her family would meet Dr. Kofi Boahene and the CSI team. After careful examination and health evaluation, Dr. Boahene said "of course, we will take care of you". The team knew that the procedure would require more time and resources than the cleft lip procedures planned for the week, but Noorjahan’s situation was special. It was important that she be given the chance to lead a life her family had yet only dreamed of for her.

Noorjahan and her family were shocked to actually be finally accepted for surgery, and were amazed that after just a couple of hours in the operating room her appearance had changed so dramatically. They would travel home later that week, with renewed hope for the Noorjahan's future. Her mother promised to pray for Dr. Boahene daily for the rest of her life.

Captivated by the story, the local Rangpur news team traveled to Noorjahan's home village a couple of months later. There they found a family with renewed hope. Noorjahan had healed well, and was much more engaged with her family and community. Her mother said: "They performed the surgery, and my daughter now looks so beautiful. Now three sisters enjoy their time together. She is smiles a lot, and is willing to meet people. What can I say....for as long as I live, I will pray to Allah five times a day for them (CSI team). This is the greatest gift that I could have received."

The CSI surgical team was able to evaluate Noorjahan on their second trip to Bangladesh. Unfortunately, at that time there were medical concerns that precluded her from having the second procedure. Hopefully, when the CSI team returns to Bangladesh in 2015, they will be able to continue Noorjahan's care.

Ruth - Liberia

Ruth had just begun 2nd grade when she decided she no longer wanted to go to school. Her mother told CSI doctors that this was unusual because Ruth is very smart, so smart she is a year ahead for her age. Ruth finally told her mother the problem was people couldn’t understand her saying “you talk through your nose.”

Ruth was born with a cleft palate, which made it difficult to understand when she spoke. When Ruth and her fraternal twin sister were born, their mother tried to find a doctor to repair Ruth’s mouth, but she couldn’t find one in Liberia who had the skill to perform such a procedure.

When she heard the radio ad about CSI coming to Duside Hospital, she was worried about coming up with the money. Despite working very hard selling used clothes in a market, most of her earnings went towards school supplies for her children, an expense she considers of upmost importance to their future. She could not believe her ears upon hearing the surgery was being offered free of charge – "Only God will be able to pay you people for the goodness you have brought to my daughter. I thank my God for you people".

Ruth and her mother, twin sister and little brother arrived at Duside Hospital in January 2013. Ruth passed the screening process and was scheduled for surgery. In the recovery room after the procedure, Ruth said that she couldn’t wait to go back to school.

A Mother's Love - Mexico

In October a young mother arrived at CIMA Hospital with her 5 month old baby. She wanted her baby, who had been born with a cleft lip and palate, to be seen by the CSI medical team. The young woman was poor and spoke no English but was determined to get help for her daughter.

As I listened to her story I was reminded of the power of a mother’s love. To get the daughter the care she needed, the mom needed to travel by bus from her village 7 hours away from the hospital. I asked her how she managed to get to CIMA having no money. She told me she made bouquets, collected pots and pans, and cooked tacos. Then she held a raffle and sold tickets, to make just enough money for the bus ticket. Camilla had surgery the next day; mom could barely wait to bring her home and show everyone. Another wonderful moment for a mother and her child.

Little Sandra Agyapong - Ghana

Little Sandra Agyapong was brought to the screening by her daddy. They had traveled for a day and a half to get to Kumasi. Sandra was healthy, a good candidate for surgery, and was scheduled for early in the week because of the distance they had traveled and would have to travel to return home. The day of her scheduled surgery came, but she did not show up. That often happens if the parents become nervous about having foreign strangers operate on their child.

The final day of surgery, Sandra and her daddy showed up for surgery. The obvious question was, “Where have you been?” We learned through translators that he was told his daughter could not be operated on until she was registered with the hospital. In order to do that, he needed the booklet of immunizations that is issued to all children at the time of birth. He had left it at home, so he traveled back home to get it, a day and a half, then back to the hospital, another day and a half. Needless to say, Sandra was quickly added to the operating schedule.

We later found out that the mother wouldn’t come with Sandra because she didn’t think anything could be done and she really didn’t want the child. It is common in many developing countries for parents to abandon or put to death a child born with a deformity, as it is believed the family is cursed to have such a child. As Sandra and her daddy left, we looked around and found the immunization booklet left on the table in the hospital. The hospital staff said they would see that it was returned to Sandra’s dad.

Last Minute Surgery - Peru

A reminder of why we ask people to give so much of their time and money came to us on the last day of the mission [Peru, 2004]. A family arrived from a pueblo outside of Puno. They had heard by word of mouth that there was a medical team from the United States in Arequipa for the week; they feared it might be too late, but took a chance; they hitched a ride at 10PM Wednesday night from their home into Puno, then bought a ride in the back of a pickup truck to Arequipa. They arrived at 8AM Thursday morning. It was not too late. They were screened that morning, and were fit in to an already full half-day schedule.

The results of the surgery were amazing, and the family was so grateful that our team was able to help them. It was a memorable way to tie up a very busy, but very happy and rewarding week.

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