By Chioma Obinna
THE birth of a new born baby into a family always bring joy and celebration, but one of the uncommon news to hear from doctors after the delivery of a new child is, “there is something wrong with your baby.” Mrs. Margaret Ubong, Mrs. Faliat Hassan and Mr. Odusanya Olajide felt the same way when they were told few minutes after delivery that their babies had cleft lip and palate. “I will never forget the way my heart dropped out of my chest that moment,” said Mrs. Margaret Ubong.
Cleft lip and palate are birth defects that happen while a baby is developing in the uterus. During the sixth to 10th week of pregnancy, the bones and tissues of a baby’s upper jaw, nose, and mouth normally come together (fuse) to form the roof of the mouth and the upper lip. If the tissue in the developing mouth and the palate don’t fuse together, a baby could be born with a cleft lip or cleft palate, or both.
The palate is the roof of the mouth and has two main parts. In babies with cleft palate, there is an opening between the roof of the mouth and the nose.
For these women, learning that their babies, Sharon Ubong, Taiwo Hassan, Habeeb Odusanya were born with cleft lips and palates was devastating. They could barely hold back their emotions, but burst into crying. According to them, they tried to pull themselves together enough to just get out the words “cleft lip and palate.”
For Mr. Olajide Odusanya, father of Habeeb Odusanya, it came as a shock because he never expected it. “Though I have seen it with some children, I thought it was the fault of their parents. Immediately I saw the baby in the labour room, I felt a little disappointed,” Olajide said.
Their heart-rendering stories may not be different from other parents who have children with cleft lip and palate. But thanks to the fact that all hope is not lost, the conditions could be reconstructed even in Nigeria.
However, the children were among the beneficiaries of free corrective surgery put together by Smile Train, at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos. SmileTrain is an international charity organisation that provides cleft lip and palate surgery to children in need.
Do you have a child with cleft lip and palate? Experts at National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, NOHI, is offering free surgical operation for children with the condition.
At a sensitisation walk aimed at creating the needed awareness among the populace on the need to bring out affected children for the free surgery, Chief Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Yinusa Wahab, who noted that the condition occurs in one per 1,000 live births, stated that the condition could be taken care of, if early diagnosis and treatment were initiated early.
Wahab, who noted that finance has been a major set- back for most children with the condition, said the hospital would embark on an awareness campaign to alert Nigerians that the hospital has put in place such programme that would take care of the condition, free.
Head of Department, Bones and Plastic Surgery and Coordinator of SmileTrain at NOHI, Dr. Folake Abikoye, explained that the organisation had called on parents of children with cleft lip and palate to bring such children to the hospital for a free surgical operation.
“Parents are usually very sad and embarrassed when faced with such situation, thereby hiding such children, but medical experts say the defects can be corrected surgically if reported early. If it involves the palate, the affected child usually have speech problem which can be corrected after surgery with speech therapy. The beneficiaries expressed appreciation to SmileTrain, advising other parents to bring their children out for free surgery.