Eddie another Peace Corps volunteer near my village and I gathered up some potential candidates for the Operation Smile Mission happening in Tana. We biked out one Sunday to the “ambanivolo” of Mahanoro and found three potential patients. When we arrived in the first town we asked around for the Chef Fokotany and let him know that we were in search of children who had cleft lip or cleft palates. He pointed us in the direction of a small ravinala house where a mother, father, and 6 month old child who had a cleft lip. We talked to the family about Operation Smile’s mission and the opportunity they would have to come up with us to be screened for surgery. Within minutes crowds of children hoarded around us staring inquisitively.
Word spread quickly and soon we had a list of 20 people that suffered from either cleft lip or cleft palates. The one that surprised me the most is a young boy who lives less than 15 feet from my house his name is Tino, he has already had the surgery once before but it did not go well and his parents are hoping this program will offer Tino a new chance at a smile.
On Thursday I woke up at 5 am and gathered my belongings- I met the two families, Delina and her mother from the “ambanivolo” of Mahanoro and Tino and his mother and father. We broussed up and on the way picked up Lezoma a 30 year old man with a bilateral cleft lip. Next we picked up Eddie, PCV, and four other patients. All together we arrived in Tana, the capital, and set them up in the Catholic Church. They are being hosted by the Catholic Church, which has been so accommodating and sweet by feeding and offering a warm place to stay for Op Smile patients.
On Saturday, we woke up at the crack of dawn and headed over to the hospital where we waited in line with 600 other individuals to get screened. Operation Smile is an amazing organization, but unfortunately they cannot cater to the large amounts of patients that showed up. They screen all the individuals and rank them by priority. I had the opportunity to talk to the Clinical Coordinator and shared my story. I shared the story of the Mahanoro group taking a journey and adventure to get here to Tana in hopes of having a chance at a new smile. The Clinical Coordinator was amazingly cooperative and understanding. She appreciated the braveness and adventure the group had been on and made sure that all 7 of the individuals Eddie and I brought up made it on the surgery list!
All 7 are scheduled for surgery for Tuesday afternoon. I could not be happier.