That first day of intake, Andrea Dolak and Jill Long (photojournalists) noticed a 5-year-old boy sitting in the first row trying to get their attention by waving. They were taken by his happy, outgoing personality and nodded to each other, this is one boy we want to follow through surgery.
Stevenson and his mother.
At his turn to have his picture taken for his file, Stevenson flashed a big, mischievous smile, then went to Andrea to kiss her. They both hoped that whatever was wrong, Stevenson would qualify for surgery.
Monday night the chart had a red dot on it, meaning no surgery. They were heartsick as this cute little boy couldn’t make his speech understood, not one word. Our speech therapist, Carolyn Muller, went over the red dots and pulled a few to be seen, including Stevenson. She brought him in and observed that he understands what he hears and tries hard to form the words. The inside of his mouth looked normal, however his sounds came through his nose, as a cleft palate. Had he mislearned to talk or was something physical going on?
In consultation with Dr. Ann Delaney, it was decided since he had had speech therapy before and clearly he was a smart boy, they would look at his throat muscles through an endoscope. The clinic didn’t have a scope. A local ENT doctor volunteered to see him the next day. The police escorted Carolyn, and a local speech therapist (also a Rotarian) and an interpreter from the hotel to the ENT office to meet Stevenson and family.
Stevenson, his mother, and his cousin.
The endoscopy procedure showed the structure and how the muscles move when he talks. It was discovered that he has a “sub-mucous cleft.” That is a cleft palate that you can’t see by looking in the mouth as skin has covered the separated bones. This condition is uncommon and hard to diagnosis because the mouth looks normal inside. He also had some muscles not functioning properly. The doctor wrote a summary and supplied a video. (Carolyn took the opportunity to explain Rotaplast and the need for ENTs and language therapists for future missions.)
Dr. Ann Delaney reviewed the report and cleft palate surgery was scheduled. Today, this bright, expressive boy had surgery and is in the recovery ward this evening playing with toys.
Stevenson (center), Helen (left), and Bonnie (right).