Monrovia - For the first time in 50 years, a mother of five Kpanah Fallah smiles normally as a result of a surgery done by the Samaritan Purse surgical team.
Samaritan Purse Liberia brought in surgeons to perform surgery on people with cliff lip and palate, especially those in rural places; the surgical team is currently at the newly constructed state-of-the art ELWA Hospital.
Before the surgery, Fallah was accompanied by her 80 years old mother Kumba Jartu, who could not wait to see her daughter face get to normality.
Upon Fallah’s return from the surgical room, her mother couldn’t hold back her joy as she jumped on doctors and nurses in celebration for the successful operation.
“Just by seeing her coming from the operation room with her face changed I started rejoicing and hugging the nurses, thanking God for his work. I want to thank, I got nothing to give in return. If I had money, my daughter lip would have been fixed a long time ago".
If see any parent with child like this, I will courage that parent,” speaking through an interpreter Jartu said.
Going for the surgery patients are received by Samaritans Purse Kou Sims who screens them before meeting the doctors.
“Right now I’m doing screening with the team, when the patients come in we first do registration and ask them for their social history, after the social history we come and get the medical history, we check for other illness, just to make sure they are clear to meet the doctor,” Sims said.
Sims said the patients are “very” excited. “You know in the community they call them all kind of names, especially the adults they can’t wait to see themselves normal.”
Jartu recalls that giving birth to her daughter she was advice by her mother to throw the child away because she wasn’t a human being.
“I was married to the town chief and he had other women, when I gave birth to this child my mother who is the grand mother said the child wasn’t a human being, so I should throw her away,” Jartu said.
She continued: “Other people told me that it is not the baby fault to come like this, it gives me courage, at first I didn’t want to breast feed her but later on I started breast feeding her.
With her deformity Kpanah became the breadwinner “right now she is the one doing everything for me, if I tie lappa she is the one, my daughter presently have five children,” her mother said.
Samaritan Purse Program Manager Karen Daniels said, the team has done thirty surgery adding that most of them are from Lofa and Grand Bassa.
“Some of these patients came by helicopter, many of them are from the bush-bush, they don’t even speak Liberian English, they came a long way and trust us, it’s exciting, Daniels said.
“Samaritan Purse has an aviation program which help us to bring them to Monrovia, we model this program after our program in Sudan, with the expertise of the SP Liberia team we were able to plan this together, is a lot work, it has been six months of effort to get to today,” Daniels added.
Daniels is hoping the program can continue for other kids with deformity to feel normal for once.
“There is much need in this country for this kind of surgery, there are nervous initially but the kids are very brave they are not crying,” Daniels said.
A Grandfather Philip Nyorkor eating his meal was anxiously waiting for his boy to be discharge.
“I feel good and I’m happy, when I carried him home, I will call party, I must celebrate, with this he has a clean future,
Nyorkor said the boy is always provoked by his friends.”They laugh at him all the times.”
Little Philip was abandon by his mother for deformity and has been with his grandfather.
In tears Nyorkor said he has not seen his daughter in years adding that he has to play both the father and mother role.
“I encourage parent not to feel discourage with their children with this problem, what make me to bring him the mother abandon him,” Nyorkor said.
“I felt discourage when the mother left him in my hands, from the time he was born I don’t know where his mother has gone, so I’m feeling bad,” he said.
One of the surgeons Tom Boeve said because of Samaritan Purse they are able to go out in remote areas and find children that have cliff lip adding that they flown to Monrovia.
Boeve said, the surgery is not as complicated as people might think adding they have doing it for years and new techniques has been develop.
“It is complicated but not complicated as you might think, over series of years we do many of them, we get comfortable in ways that others before us have learn quick techniques and we use this techniques to bring the tissue together to make the lip look like it close to normal,”
“It is gratifying operation because you take someone who is unable to go to school, go to work or get a job maybe fit into society without having to hide themselves and in matter of 45mins to an hour we repair their lips such that they are pretty much integrity in their society, it’s great opportunity to do this,” Boeve said.
Andrew Vahmah from Nimba had to walk a day and a half from his village to before reaching the main road to board a vehicle to Monrovia.
Vahmah journey is to bring his one year old son with a cliff lip to get treatment.
“We have to walk to get on the main road before seeing a car to take us in Sanniquellie, we walk one and the half day, the people say they can do the job, I’m just waiting for few minutes to take this boy to the surgery room,” Vahmah said.
The CEO of new ELWA Hospital John Fankhauser said they are delighted to have a facility that is modern and is able to give hope to many Liberians.
“What you are seeing this week is dream come to fruition, after the team has left the hospital, they are leaving behind supplies, they are leaving behind expertise,” Fankhauser said.
Fankhauser continued: “Our hospital will continue to be a place where people can come and be care for, this is what God has call us to do.”
Fankhauser said the operation is amazing, challenging and tedious adding that they have to avoid small nerves and blood vessel.
“Many of them (children) are overwhelmed; a lot of them have been face with trouble for a long time. These children have never smile like you and I,” He said.
On Monday 11 surgeries were done eight surgeries follow the next day, on Wednesday the team completed 10. Between 40-50 surgeries in total is expected to be carried out.