Kendra is three month old and was born with a cleft lip. Globally, an estimated 1 in every 700 children is born with a cleft lip and/or palate. However data on cleft lips/palates on the African continent are hard to collect. Lack of correct diagnose and treatment, shame, superstition and much more are a reason that often a malformation which is relatively easy to fix, has sometimes fatal consequences. Due to the abnormality it is hard for the concerned people to eat and drink and thus often leads to malnutrition. Stigmatization often resulting from superstition and beliefs of curses etc are often the reason for people born with cleft lip/palate are leading a life far from happiness and normality.
Kendra’s young parents are traumatized by the fact that they gave birth to a child with a cleft. They had never seen or hear of it before, the neighbors started talking, wondering if Kendra’s mom tried to abort and god had cursed her by giving her a child with a malformation. Fortunately Kendra is taken care by her grandma who loves her unconditionally and who did not shy away when she hear about a campaign offering free cleft lip surgeries in Cameroon’s South region. She braved the there ay long trip to Sangmelima, driven by the idea of changing Kendra’s life for the better.
Feeding Kendra can take hours as due to her cleft often the milk comes back out through her nose.
Prof. Mouafo Tambo is a pediatric surgeon based in Yaounde, Cameroon and specialized on pediatric malformation. He has been trained by and is affiliated with the well known Smile Train organization which operates cleft lips and palates for free all over the world. Prof. Mouafo Tambo leads his team during the one week campaign in Sangmelima.
Kendra undergoes many different exams to see if she is in good health and a good candidate for the surgery.
Once Kendra has been cleared for surgery, no time is wasted: the preparation of her and the surgery theater is fast underway. The team includes twelve highly trained doctors and nurses today, everyone with very specific tasks and protocols to follow during surgery.
Everyone entering the surgical theater has to follow a very precise hygienic protocol.
During the two hours surgery Prof. Mouafo Tambo explains every single steps he does to his fellow surgeons in the room and transmits the specifics of cleft lip and palate surgeries.
There is total silence in the surgery theater, the only one speaks g is the master surgeon giving commands. Everything goes as planned.
Power cuts are frequent in Cameroon, and sure enough it happened several time during the surgery- but the surgery kept going with the light of an iPhone. Problem solving at its core.
Soon enough Kendra is back waking up in her grandma’s arms without the cleft.