The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected all non-COVID related health issues and has deeply impacted the patients who require elective surgeries. As we continue our efforts to overcome this crisis, several challenges have now arisen particularly in the space of comprehensive cleft care.
Currently, several families who have children with such condition are feeling anxious, confused and hopeless as they are unable to get proper access to the cleft treatment. These families are currently living under the fear of how a delay in cleft treatment might affect the development of their child. In a bid to improve the quality of lives of these children and ensure a better future for them, Aster CMI as a part of Aster Volunteers, its CSR programme initiative in association with Love Without Reason foundation (LWR) came forward to support these children and provided them with free cleft surgeries.
During the pandemic, paediatric team at Aster CMI hospital performed around 15 free cleft surgeries. The hospital had also set up free health camps with the help of local doctors at various remote locations and villages to increase awareness about this procedure and encourage more families to come forward and benefit from this treatment.
For close to 5 years now, Aster CMI Hospital in partnership withLWR foundation has been continuously working towards the cause of providing cost-free cleft surgeries for underprivileged children. The aim of this initiative was to ensure that children who visit the hospital with a cleft lip or cleft palate, are operated upon free of charge. Since then, the surgeons at the hospital have conductedmore than 100 reconstructive surgeries on children who had been born with such deformities.
A cleft refers to a gap or split in the upper lip or palate, which is the roof of the mouth that present among some babies from birth. In India, more than 35,000 babies are born every year with cleft lips or palates and almost one baby in every 350 live births has a cleft lip or palate. Many such children continue to live and suffer from this treatable condition due to lack of awareness, access to proper medical care and financial assistance. There are numerous challenges which these children face, such as their inability to breastfeed or feed on a normal bottle because they cannot form a good seal with their mouth, increased risk of tooth decay and rise in speech problems as the child gets older. These challenges can continue to persist among the affected children if the surgeries are not performed on time. The delay in treatment can also lead to ear infections among children and the cleft lift may also affect their hearing.
Emphasizing on the need to spread awareness on cleft and palate surgeries, Dr. Sathish M S Vasishta, Consultant – Craniomaxillofacial Surgery, Aster CMI Hospital said: “Due to the lack of awareness about this simple procedure, many at times, a simple defect like a cleft often goes untreated and such children continue to live with a cleft lip or cleft palate. Furthermore, due to the several ill-conceived notions around the cost of the treatment and societal repercussions, most of the cleft patients, especially girls, are abandoned at birth.However, parents of children with cleft lip must understand that a cleft is a mere barrier to a child’s smile, which once removed, allows a child to have a full and rich life with access to myriad opportunities.”
Thanking the hospital for the initiative, Riyaz Pasha, father of Moinuddin, who recently underwent a cleft lip and cleft palate surgery at Aster CMI Hospital said: “Our child wasborn with split in the upper lip and palate. Breast feeding him or feeding him through a milk bottle was a challenge for us. Since the lockdown was implemented, we were unable to visit a doctor due to lack of safe transport facilities and had no access to OPD consultations for our child. We were facing several difficulties in taking care of our child and this is when we approached Aster CMI hospital for support. At the hospital, the doctors informed us about the free cleft surgery treatment which was being provided by Aster CMI and they agreed to treat our child under this initiative. This was the biggest help that anyone could have offered us. It has been 3 months since the surgery and the baby is feeding on well. We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Aster CMI hospital for undertaking this initiative and would like to thank the doctors for giving our child a new smile.”
This birth defect not only impacts the child but also distresses their parents. The severity of the cleft and its overbearing impact on the parents often causes myriads of conflicting emotions among them and many of them also find it difficult to cope up with the physical and social demands of parenthood. A simple surgery can restore a family’s dreams and can bring back their long lost happiness. With this novel initiative of free cleft surgeries, Aster CMI Hospital aims to make a difference in many more lives and will continue to strive towards providing a healthy smile to the affected children.