Schweppes Zimbabwe, Mpilo hospital restore smiles

18 May, 2022 - 00:05 0 Views
Schweppes Zimbabwe, Mpilo hospital restore smiles Ms Thobekile Masuku and her son after surgery

The Chronicle

Lumbidzani Dima, Chronicle Reporter
A SMILE is the cheapest and most dazzling accessory anyone can wear. Life can be more pleasant simply because someone smiled at you.

But what happens when one does not have the ability to smile because of a condition?

Cleft lips have taken away smiles from many, but surgeries are returning the lost smiles.

There was an aura of happiness at Mpilo Central Hospital yesterday as parents brought children with cleft lips and palates for free surgery conducted by the Operation of Hope team from the United States.

Normally, such an operation costs about US$35  000.

Schweppes Zimbabwe provided funding so that the doctors can offer life-changing surgery and health care for children in desperate need so that every child has the hope of a normal life.

Money -Image taken from Shutterstock

Cleft lip and cleft palate are openings or splits in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate) or both. According to health experts, cleft lip and cleft palate result when facial structures that are developing in an unborn baby don’t close completely.

Cleft lips are more common in males than females.

A total of 67 children have been booked in and some have already undergone surgery in a programme that started last week.

There is still room for more patients and more people are being invited to visit the hospital and get help.

When a Chronicle news crew visited the health institution, some children were waiting to go to theatre, some were in the theatre room and others had already been operated on.

Mpilo Central Hospital

Parents, who came from different parts of the country, expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the US team for carrying out the operations for free.

Ms Pamela Ndlovu (27) from Bulawayo’s Makokoba suburb recalled the emotional roller-coaster the first time she saw her baby who had cleft lips, in hospital. She was very confused as to why he had split lips. She did not expect such considering that her first child was normal in all ways.

“About 10 months ago, after giving birth, they showed me my baby and I was so confused and scared at the same time. I had never seen such a thing in my life. I couldn’t even look at the baby. The nurses saw how scared I was, and kept the baby with them for two days. In those two days I got to know that cleft lips are common and they can be operated on and fixed, a child does not stay like that forever,” she said.

Ms Ndlovu said she feels relieved that her child will undergo surgery and be like other children.

“When he was three months old, we approached the hospital for surgeries, but they said he was too young. So, when I heard about these free surgeries, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I wouldn’t want my son to blame me in the future for leaving him with a treatable condition which would make him feel inferior among others,” she said.

Ms Thobekile Masuku (32), a mother to a four-year-old boy who underwent cleft lip surgery three years back, and had come for a palate operation said she feels so happy that her son’s problems will soon be gone.

“It pained me that the first time I saw a cleft lip was on my son. After showing me that he has a cleft lip they opened his mouth and I saw a hole in its roof. That did not sit well with me. I spent the whole day crying, trying to understand what that is and why my child. When another person in the ward gave birth to a child with a cleft lip as well, I then accepted it and calmed down,” she said.

“When he was eating, the food would come out of the nose, especially when he was breastfeeding or expectorating. When it happened for the first time as I was breastfeeding him, I got scared to death; I couldn’t even continue. Thank God, my mother was there with me all the way otherwise I would not have managed nurturing my child alone. As time went on, I mastered some techniques of feeding him.”

Ms Masuku said when her son underwent the cleft lip surgery in 2019, she got relief from unending horrified or curious stares wherever she was out with him. She said wherever they went, even at the baby clinic, everyone would be staring at her child.

“After that operation, the challenge of food coming out of the nose stopped. The only thing that is still a problem is that food can go into that hole on the roof of the mouth. When that happens, he just drinks water then it comes down. Now that he will undergo the last surgery, I’m the happiest mother on earth, no more problems related to this shall befall my son,” she said.

All the way from Hwange, Ms Prudence Ncube (23) brought her six-year-old child for the palate operation. She said the cleft palate made it difficult for her son to speak.

Ms Prudence Ncube and her son after surgery

“He underwent the cleft lip surgery when he was seven months old, and in those months, he gave me problems when he was spitting. His spitting was obviously different from that of other babies because of that hole and the split on the lips. The sight was scary at first, until I got used to it,” she said.

Ms Ncube said she is glad that once the second operation is done, her child will gain normal speech. He will be able to talk properly and fluently without the palate disturbing him.

Ms Sarah Sithole (25) from Chipinge was all smiles after receiving her child back from successful cleft lip surgery. She couldn’t stop looking at the new sight of her toddler’s face. Even the baby kept using the tongue to feel the now normal lip.

“I’m over the moon right now, I don’t even know what to say. All I can say is I’m happy to see my child with a normal lip. I appreciate the free surgeries,” she said.

The CEO of Operation of Hope, Dr Jennifer Trubenbach, said cleft lip and palate surgeries can be performed on anyone who is above three months of age.

Sarah Sithole’s son before surgery

“In the black race one baby in every 850 black babies are born with either the split lip or the hole on the roof of the mouth, and its genetic. It’s no fault of the parents, it’s just how someone is born, and the only way to fix that is through surgery. It is genetic, in some instances all babies in a family can have it, in other cases it skips some generations,” she said.

Dr Trubenbach said as long as one has a hole on the roof of the mouth, they can never be a fluent speaker as they cannot make the “t” and “s” sounds.

Sarah Sithole’s son after surgery

She said the lip is responsible for teeth coming out straight, so if the lip is not fixed the teeth can grow in any direction.
Dr Trubenbach said they are running the surgeries until May 30, and more people are still welcome to book operations as they are far from reaching their targeted number.

“It’s really important that we do this operation for free because in America this operation is about US$35 000, so our team is bringing about US$8 million worth of health care to Zimbabweans for free. We want everyone whose child has a cleft lip to come forth and get the surgery for free,” said Dr Trubenbach.

She said they don’t add skin, they just put it together, and all they want is to bring smiles.

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