Series of cleft lip surgeries to give kids perfect smiles

Amohelang Nvuinande's cleft lip operation
Amohelang Nvuinande's cleft lip operation

Children's laughter and screaming could be heard in the passages of ward 13 at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in Soweto.

You would be forgiven to think that you had just walked into a daycare centre as the walls are painted and have colourful pictures hanging on them.

The children between the ages of four months and 11 years could be seen chasing each other in the corridors.

At least 12 of these children were at the institution where they were to undergo life-changing operations from the Smile Foundation. The operations will be in the main cleft lip and palate-related surgeries.

Sitting in one of the corners were the parents and guardians of the children who were equally excited and anxious.

Seipati Nvuinande, 34, releases a sigh of relief as she walks outside of theatre where her 10-month daughter Amohelang was operated for a cleft lip.

"She is still in the recovery room. I thank God that everything went well, I just pray for my daughter's speedy recovery. I kept praying throughout the operation for everything to go well. Her lips are still swollen, but I am proud of her bravery," she said.

One of the five specialist doctors who operating on the children, Dr Viwe Nogaga, said he was happy to be able to bring back the children's quality of life. It feels good to see the children smiling when they come for their follow-ups," he said.

The team of specialists will perform at least four operations a day this week.

Meanwhile, six-year-old Atang Makola sat quietly in a small table with a colouring book. His mother Thembi, 33, said she is excited that her son, who was born with a cleft palate, will finally be helped.

"We have been coming here since he was four years old and that is when I discovered about the cleft palate. He was four and could not speak like kids his age.

"I brought him here [Chris Hani Baragwanath] for speech therapy and the doctor discovered that he had an ear infection which was caused by the cleft palate. I was panicking at first, but decided to educate myself about cleft palate," she said.

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