By Sola Ogundipe
A medical team of plastic/reconstructive and oral maxillofacial surgeons and other health care professionals led by Consultant plastic surgeon and Head of Burns/Plastic Unit at LASUTH, Prof Idowu Fadeyibi, has left a lasting smile on the faces of 20 indigent infants and children in Lagos and environs challenged by cleft lip and palate deformities.
The patients are beneficiaries of the 12th free surgery mission provided by the Health, Education, Work and Shelter, HEWS, Foundation in partnership with the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd, SPDC, and its Joint Venture Partners, in collaboration with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH.
At the signing of the partnership agreement for the HEWS Foundation-SPDC free cleft lip/palate Mission at the LASUTH, last week in Lagos, President/Founder HEWS Foundation, Mr. Aderemi Adeseun, said providing free surgeries for children born with cleft lip and palate is the mission of the Foundation.
“The first thing you see on a human being is the face so if anyone is unfortunate to have a face that looks different from others but becomes an object of negative attention because very soon the stares become sneers and in young people might be a reason for laughter and derisive comments.
“Soon such people tend to start feeling self conscious and even their families are embarrassed about them. Beyond the surgical correction, we also want to provide prevention and correction of social stigma to let people know that the fact that people look different should not mean they are not human.”
Rule for cleft lip patients
Adeseun explained that the “10-10-10” rule set for cleft lip patients by surgeons is usually applied. What this translates into is that at 10 weeks, 10 kg body weight and about 10 PCV blood count value, a baby is ready for surgery. This simply means that the surgery should not be rushed.
“We wait till the child is about three weeks and strong enough, for palate surgery the child needs to be up to 10 months old to withstand the rigor of the surgery.”
“Our flagship project in the Health sector is in the area of providing Free Cleft Lip/Palate and Benign Jaw Tumour surgeries to indigent Nigerians especially children with congenital defect of Cleft Lips and Palate,” said Vive President, HEWS Foundation. Ms. Sola Soji-John.
”There are few of hundreds of thousands of children in Nigeria struggling through life with a cleft lip/palate. Most of these children will never be able to speak or eat properly and some will go through their entire lives without being able to smile.
“The greatest tragedy is that virtually every one of these children can be helped with surgery that takes as little as 45 minutes but for the fact that the majority of them are too poor and cannot pay for the surgery,” she remarked
In four years of successful repair and reconstruction surgeries, 130 patients comprising 70 children and 60 adults in Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Gombe and Edo States have benefited from the initiative.