Some 154 patients with various forms cleft conditions, have had their deformities corrected last week through a free medical operation undertaken by the world acclaimed medical charity, ‘Operation Smile’ at the Volta regional hospital in Ho.
The five day medical operation which had a 36,000 dollar support from Unibank, involved a team of 86 medical and non-medical volunteers who worked to put smiles on the faces of the patients, aged between 6 months and 73 years, with children dominating.
Cleft lips are lips that are not fully formed and cleft palates are holes in the roof of the mouth. This, experts say can create speech abnormalities and breathing problems sometimes resulting in death.
According to Dr. Opoku Ware Ampomah, leader of the surgical team, a total of seven surgeons operated on the patients drawn from various parts of the country within the five days.
“Seven surgeons were operating simultaneously for the one week. We ensure that we do the young children early in the day and the older one later in the day. It was very tedious but we have about the successful outcome of the operations.”
He said, despite the stress involved, the Operation Smile team which comprises of volunteers from 13 different countries across the globe was excited about the success of the operations and the joy it brings to the patients, their families and community.
“For every case that we handle, we put smiles on the faces of a family and a community, that is what makes us fulfilled and we glad to impacted these 154 lives,” Dr. Amponsah said.
The patients and their guardians were also offered free transportation, accommodation and feeding throughout the period as result of Unibank’s support.
Dr .Ampomah, who is also the director of the National Burns and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery Centre, at the Korle- Bu Teaching Hospital, noted that in Ghana about one in every thousand (1:1000) child births, suffers Cleft lip and Cleft palate, which is one of the common birth defects across the world.
He however said lack of awareness about the condition has resulted in the stigmatization of cleft patients, most of who live in pain and isolation because they are demonized and excluded by their families.
“Some children born with this kind of anomaly do not even live beyond the first week, because of the misconception that they are spirit children and therefore must be killed,” he noted and called for increased public sensitization to get many more cleft patients to access medical treatment.
Mr. Clifford Mettle, Director of E-banking, Products and Marketing at Unibank said the bank supported the Operation Smile mission to restore hope to the underprivileged in society. He noted that, as an indigenous financial institution, Unibank ‘cares’ about the health and safety of Ghanaians, hence making a key tenet of its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
Justin Shaddrack, father of a 5 year old girl, who had her third successful surgery under Operation Smile to correct her speech, couldn’t hide his excitement and gratitude to the team, as he recounted the humiliation and agony her wife went through due to the daughter’s condition.
Almost 800 cleft victims have so far benefitted from the free medical services of Operation Smile, since it started operations in Ghana in 2011 and the NGO is hopeful of transforming more lives in the country, according to Mrs Sabrina Ghiddi, the Regional Manager for West and Southern Africa, of Operation Smile International.