In 2016 the ICSF team encountered a very unusual little patient in its annual mission to the Hai Phong, Vietnam Children’s Hospital. Her name was Nhung (pronounced “Nyume”). Nhung, age five at that time, was born with a huge dark, mole covering most of her face. Nhung’s mother had been looking desperately for a way for her daughter’s condition to be treated. She fearfully imagined the time when her daughter would have to go to school and face the ridicule, teasing and marginalization that children with deformities frequently face.
As another Mother’s Day rolls around we at ICSF reflect on our organization’s close bond with mothers. There would be no ICSF without mothers. In fact, it was mothers who were responsible for the inception of our organization.
Leann had always celebrated Christmas but had never thought of it as a time of gifts and presents. In fact, Leann and her family were too poor to exchange any Christmas gifts at all. Christmas time, 2018, was especially hard for Leann. She, ten months previously, had given birth to a daughter, Aerose, who had a severe facial deformity, a cleft lip and palate. Ever since that day Leann had grieved for her daughter’s future. She envisioned teasing, ridicule, rejection and loneliness. But then in late November, 2018, Leann heard about an American cleft team coming to her region.
When Melanie gave birth last June in her town of Kalamansat, Philippines, her initial joy quickly turned to devastation. Her newborn daughter whom she had come to love prior to birth, had a large cleft of the lip.
As of the printing of this newsletter, ICSF will have served a total of seven surgical missions for the year 2022 with six already scheduled for the year 2023. “Being able to schedule missions at this rate and frequency is made possible by our donors,” states Doctor Williams. “We really owe it all to them.” “In 2023 we anticipate ten missions served which is up to speed for what we were accomplishing prior to the Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.
In 2019 a non-surgical humanitarian team from the United States encountered an eighteen month-old girl in Ecuador named Jessica, born with a complete bilateral (two sided) cleft of her lip and palate. At first, the team didn’t know where to turn for help. That’s when Cheryl Dean, a member of the humanitarian team, decided to search the internet and find a team who had a reputation for doing careful surgery for children with clefts. She landed on ICSF’s website and after reading about ICSF’s values and goals decided to make the call.
Zea was too young to know she had a serious birth defect. Her mother and father knew though. Zea’s defect was a bilateral cleft lip, a defect which is more serious than most because it involved a cleft on both sides of the lip. This type of cleft is known for being very difficult to treat—typically with poor results. Zea’s parents grieved, even though they knew they could get free surgery. They had seen the results of some of these surgeries on other children in the area, performed by various medical groups, and none looked even close to normal.