For some, the child being born with a cleft lip or cleft palate is viewed as a punishment or a curse for something the mother has done. The opportunity for having the deformity repaired not only changes the life of that child but also removes that guilt from the family. Right or wrong, it is the belief in some cultures, so the impact of each surgery goes beyond the physical aspect.
One of the families I talked to traveled for 11 hours to get to the hospital to bring their child there with no guarantee that they would receive the surgery. Another had traveled 160 kilometers. It is not a matter of jumping in the family car and driving to the hospital: some walk, while others use their life savings or borrow money to hire a taxi or bus.
The flow of the procedure is well organized. The patient waits in pre-op until they are called and then they are escorted to the pre-op room to prepare for surgery. From there the patient is taken to the Operating room where the procedure takes an hour or two. Once completed, the patient is taken to the recovery room where the recovery nurses take over until the patient is awake and stable.Then they are reunited with the family, usually a very emotional reunion for all, including us, and after a while they are wheeled to the post-op room to stay overnight before being discharged. I will try to spotlight some of the team members and patients in the next few days to give their impression of the mission.