Meet Grace, a 6 year old girl from the village of Gusu in need of a cleft lip repair. On February 19th 2013, she became CMI’s first patient in Malawi, for a surgery that she and her family thought would never be possible. Grace had been born with one leg shorter than the other, fusions of her pointer and middle fingers and her pinky and ring fingers, and of course her cleft lip that made hiding impossible. Her father said that she had spent her short life in misery, shunned and rejected by her community. She could not go to school because of incessant teasing. She preferred to stay inside their one room hut, but when she did leave she chose to cover herself in a red wrap, feeling that she had no place in the outside world unless concealed.
Immediately after the surgery, despite the stiches, swelling and nasal tube still in place, her father could not contain his joy at the drastic change in Grace. His joy was contagious and all the nurses, interpreters, and staff smiled with him. His daughter could go to school and make friends. His hope for her, he stated, was that she would help others, by giving them a reason for hope in life, that good can come, and that not all is truly lost. Grace, as if a flame had just sparked in a deep place within her spirit, showed us she was ready to take on life’s next challenge – healing – by giving a thumbs-up. In the following days, Grace started to show us something we had not seen before – a smile! CMI team members also were able to visit Grace, her family and pet pig at her village, and her whole family was just as excited to see her new smile and play with her village friends.
In 2014, during ConnectMed’s second trip to Malawi, Grace returned to the ABC clinic for a visit, confident and smiling. CMI team members again visited her home and happily watched her take the center stage, smiling and dancing, in the middle of a circle of children who had gathered to sing and dance.