I’ve never written a blog so please bear with me as I tend to ramble. I have been doing missionary medicine for 15 years and every trip I have a favorite kid. Not that all of our patients are not deserving but I always seem to gravitate toward one child. Grace is my special one.
We have known about Grace for almost a year as missionaries Jill and Jeremy saw her in a village that they volunteer in. This trip is the first time that I have actually met her. She came to surgical evaluation day on Monday and would not look at me directly when I said her name. Looking different from birth and getting stares and laughs will do that to you. Children with clefts especially in developing countries are often cast aside and hidden away. In the U.S. we have the same statistics of cleft lip and cleft palate as developing countries but most U.S. kids have their first surgery at 3 months of age. Grace is Six. Worn down by time and rejection is a tough rough road when you are only six years old.
Little Grace was our first surgery performed at ABC Community Clinic in Lilongwe, Malawi on Tuesday and went as smooth as can be. In the first hour post op Grace’s father came in to see her. Lots of smiles, lots of cheers, lots of prayers, and lots of tears. What a day, for Grace, for her parents, for the village and for us!
Early evening after surgery Amanda Gosman who operated on Grace, and Monico Solomon our anesthesia technician went to see Grace in the patient ward. All of the families were with the children, but Grace was alone in a dark corner, head down looking still very dejected. Amanda doesn’t cry easily but the tears came and Monico stayed. Stayed with a little girl with big eyes and a broken heart. I’m not sure where her dad was, probably just out for a much needed break.
A little later I went in to see Grace. Dad was back. After cleft surgery kids are still very swollen and often have a round nasal tube in their nose. This in addition to stitches is often a scary site to them. You also have to remember that for all of their lives they are used to seeing themselves in a certain way and to all of a sudden over the course of just a few hours they are a totally different person to look at. Many times friends and even family members don’t recognize them. I sat down, and looked Grace in the eyes and with the help of an interpreter told her that in a few days your lip will get smaller and smaller, the tube would come out of her nose and the stitches will be gone. I had a small Cover Girl compact with white ivory powder as I am very light! Grace is very dark so not sure how she will look if she decides to use the powder! However, in the compact is a small round mirror. I told her to look in the mirror everyday and each day she would see the even more beautiful young girl that we all saw from day one. She looked me in the eyes and I think I saw the beginning of a smile.
Thursday morning rounds and it may as well have been a year later. I was walking up the hall in the patient ward and a little girl with big eyes holding a Cover Girl compact with ivory powder and a mirror, looked me right in the eyes, flashed a tiny smile and said “Good Morning”. Life is good!
A big thank you to all of our ConnectMed Supporters. These are the lives of the children you are changing.