Cleft Lip Surgeries Change Lives in Myanmar

February 13, 2019 • Myanmar
More than 40 patients received lifechanging surgery during our weeklong Cleft Lip and Palate Project in Myanmar.
More than 40 patients received lifechanging surgery during our weeklong Cleft Lip and Palate Project in Myanmar.

A Samaritan’s Purse medical team brings new smiles and much joy during its surgical mission to Asia.

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“My mom told the midwife to kill the baby,” Thin said.

Thin rocks her son to sleep after his surgery.

Thin’s mom feared her grandson would not grow up as a normal child because of his cleft lip. She didn’t know how he would eat since he couldn’t breastfeed and worried he would be teased when he got older.

Neither Thin nor her mom had seen anyone with a cleft lip in their remote village in Myanmar, and the village believed the physical deformity was a sign that the family was cursed.

But the midwife assured the family that Thin’s son, Kaung, would survive.

Kaung is now 4 years old and was one of more than 40 patients who recently had surgery through the Samaritan’s Purse Cleft Lip and Palate Surgery Project in Myanmar. This is the first year our team has worked with cleft lip patients in Asia.

Since 2011, Samaritan’s Purse has sent volunteer medical teams to perform the surgery—at no cost—for hundreds of qualifying patients in countries such as South Sudan, Bolivia, and Liberia.

A Parent’s Love

Kaung’s family was so desperate to repair his cleft lip that his father took a dangerous job on a fishing boat. He is gone for a year at a time on a rickety bamboo boat, and anyone who gets sick and is unable to work risks being drowned.

Dr. Tom Boeve examines Kaung’s lip during morning rounds.

“I have no contact while he’s on the boat,” Thin said. “It’s like going to war.”*

Thin works hard as a daily laborer, picking up work on other people’s farms. She also tries to sell vegetables, but sometimes people in her community don’t buy from her since they think the family is cursed.

As hard as Thin and her husband have worked, it still wasn’t enough to come close to paying for Kaung to have surgery through regular healthcare channels.

Thin is now relieved that our medical team came and freely provided her son the opportunity to live a normal life, including getting an education without being mocked by his peers.

“I am happy to come here,” she said. “I want my son to have a good life.”

Never Too Late

Thaung, 50, has been a rice farmer all his life, just as his parents and grandparents were farmers. “We have to work hard in the fields,” he said. “It’s very difficult to grow crops because of the insects.”

When Thaung was a teenager his parents tried to provide him cleft lip surgery, but financially they couldn’t make it work. They were already struggling to support six children and experienced more setbacks after several years of crops were ruined by pests.

Some people told Thaung that his lip was deformed as punishment for something he had done in his past life, a common Buddhist teaching. Thaung was ashamed at how he looked, and as he got older he became more shy, afraid, and embarrassed to go out in public.

“I slowly moved away from friends and a community of people,” he said.

Thaung’s village is about a one-hour drive from the nearest doctor. He’d never been to a hospital. He had no access to surgery and even if he did, Thaung had no way to afford it.

He had given up hope of ever having his lip mended and reuniting with his village.

“I slowly moved away from friends and a community of people.”

Thaung was one of the first patients our medical team saw in Myanmar. Before his successful surgery, the tears in his eyes and the smile on his face shined bright, reflecting what had been missing all his life—hope.

“I’m so happy I can’t even speak,” Thaung said.

No Longer Abandoned

Ngwe is 5 years old. Her mother abandoned her and her father has health issues.

Ngwe and her aunt look at photos of nurse Carol Pollock, who was also born with a cleft lip.

Her extended family is helping with her care. They are rice farmers, and as much as they have wanted her to have the cleft lip operation, they have a hard time just making ends meet.

Ngwe’s aunt, Khaing, who accompanied her to the hospital for surgery, said the family was sad and afraid and cried many tears when a baby with a cleft lip was born into their family. Some people in the village said the birth defect was the mother’s fault.

Their village also teases Ngwe, so much so that the family has not sent her to school even though she should have started last year.

But that will all be different now that the Samaritan’s Purse team has provided Ngwe with lifechanging surgery.

“She’s very excited about starting school,” Khaing said.

Please pray for the cleft lip patients in Myanmar as they continue to recover and heal. Pray that they are welcomed and accepted into their communities and that their lives are marked by renewed hope.

*Thin’s husband is expected to return in October, at which time he should not have to go back.

Ngwe is one of hundreds of cleft lip and palate patients who have received life changing surgery.

Ngwe is one of hundreds of cleft lip and palate patients who have received lifechanging surgery.

SUPPORT
Samaritan’s Purse sends specialized teams to places such as South Sudan and Bolivia to provide outpatient surgery for hundreds of patients. Your gift of $250 will enable us to cover the cost of this life-changing procedure so we can show these boys and girls how precious they are in the eyes of God.
Mend a Cleft Lip Samaritan’s Purse sends specialized teams to places such as South Sudan and Bolivia to provide outpatient surgery for hundreds of patients. Your gift of $250 will enable us to cover the cost of this life-changing procedure so we can show these boys and girls how precious they are in the eyes of God.

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