November 28, 2014
Johan Norrby , Operation Smile Staff
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At 12 years old, Terezinha often wonders why she is different. Why is there an opening in her lip? Why doesn’t she look like all the other children in her school? Why do the other children tease her and call her names?
Terezinha has never seen anyone with a cleft lip before. That was until she came to the Operation Smile medical mission here in Mozambique where she saw hundreds of children just like her. Just looking around at the room of strangers, Terezinha said she felt happy. Happy for the first time to know that she’s not alone.
When Terezinha was born, her mother, Enriqueta, said she did not know what to do. She had never seen a cleft and didn't know what it was. Thankfully, her family and community have been very supportive in accepting her daughter.
It wasn’t until recently that a nurse at the local hospital told her it was possible for Terezinha to receive surgery on her cleft lip and the operation would be free. The nurse told Enriqueta about Operation Smile, and the hospital helped the family organize the trip, otherwise they would not have been able to afford the long journey.
Terezinha knew she wanted the surgery, though her mother was nervous about the idea.
“I really want to look like everyone else. It will be like starting a new life,” she said.
Once the family arrived at the Operation Smile medical mission, they knew they were one step closer for a new life for Terezinha. After a day of screening, Terezinha and her mother were most nervous to hear who would be selected for surgery.
“If I hear that they call my daughter’s name, I am the happiest mother in the world,” Enriqueta told me.
Soon after, Terezinha’s name was called and the two smiled with such ecstasy in their eyes. Terezinha turned to her mother and says, “When I get surgery, I will study hard and I want to become a teacher. A teacher can’t be ashamed for what she looks like.”
Even before going into surgery, Terezinha’s attitude and sheer confidence has already changed. She tells me to come back in three years and see how her life has changed.
Terezinha, I hope to see you again soon. I know you will thrive and become the teacher you hope to be.
Tags: Our Blog, From the Field, Patient Stories, Europe, Middle East and Africa