Operation Smile is a charity organization for children – donate non profit
Operation Smile is a charity organization for children – donate non profit

March 1, 2012


Alison Smyth, Medical Volunteer, Operation Smile

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Bismita and her mother at their home one day after surgery at Operation Smile's Comprehensive Care Center in Guwahati, India. Bismita was Operation Smile India's 5,000th patient treated in the state of Assam.

Nikhil, a 32 year old contract construction worker, and his wife Geeta, a 30 year old housewife who augments Nikhil’s $60 per month salary with weaving cloth for sale, met shortly after Nikhil, then 16, moved to Guwahati to look for work.

The couple met in Geeta’s sister’s home and fell in love. With the approval of her sister and brother-in-law the couples married and now share a three-room home with Geeta’s sister and family.

When Nikhil and Geeta’s older daughter, Gaytri, was seven they learned that they were expecting a second child. The eagerly awaited arrival of their second child turned to sadness and despair when Bismita was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate on June 28, 2011.

At first, Geeta attempted to breastfeed Bismita but was so nervous and anxious that due to Bismita’s difficulty in sucking she would not get enough milk.

Believing that giving Bismita formula would help her grow, Geeta changed to bottle feeding. However, the change to bottle feeding didn’t help as Bismita still had difficulty sucking and some of the milk would come out through her nose due to hole in her palate.

Fortunately the Rajbanshis learned that help might be available at Operation Smile’s Comprehensive Cleft Care Center in Guwahati. At just 24 days old, Geeta brought Bismita to the Center.

When the medical team first weighed Bismita she was 2.4kg/5.28lbs and was so severely malnourished they were concerned about her survival. The nurses engaged in intensive education on feeding Bismita and demonstrated to Geeta how she could both breast feed and extract breast milk to bottle feed her precious daughter.

Armed with this necessary information, special feeding bottles and feeding spoons, Geeta returned home with the hope and promise that once Bismita thrived and was 6 months old her life-changing surgery could be performed.

For the next five months Geeta, with the emotional support of Nikhil and her family, followed every instruction given to her by the dedicated medical personnel at the Cleft Care Center. Each month the family returned to the Center for Bismita to be measured and weighed and her developmental progress charted.

Bismita made steady progress and on February 7, 2012, weighed in at a healthy 6.69kg/14.71lbs. Bismita received her full medical evaluation and on February 9, Bismita’s cleft lip was closed.

Not only was this a very special day for Bismita and her family, it was also a landmark day for Operation Smile in Assam. Bismita was the 5,000th patient to receive life-changing surgery in Assam since the inaugural mission in January 2009.

On the morning of February 10, Bismita was discharged from the hospital and returned home with her joyful parents to warm and loving welcome from family and friends.

On February 16, 2012, Bismita returned with her parents for her one-week post-operative check-up. She looked beautiful. Once Bismita reaches 12 months, she will come back to the Centre for free surgery to close her palate.

Operation Smile’s mission is to change lives one smile at a time; however, in Bismita’s case this was not just a life changed but a life saved.

Bismita’s case motivated the nursing and research teams to formalize the Nutrition Program which already functioned at the Center. The team researched nutrition education and a development evaluation tool based on World Health Organization recommendations.

A form and database were developed to record and track all malnourished patients who come to the Center.

The nutrition team now records:
• administration of vaccines
• psychosocial development
• anthropometric measurements
• breastfeeding education
• sanitation education
• hygiene education

In addition to Bismita being the 5,000th surgical patient in Assam, she was the 20th graduate of the Nutrition Program to improve sufficiently to receive surgery.

Bismita’s surgical team comprised of local medical professionals:
Surgeon: Hiteswar Sarma
Anesthesiologist: Nabamallika Borah
Scrub Nurse: Yangyung Sullai
Circulating Nurse: Ringsophy Rimai

Tags:   Patient Stories, Comprehensive Care Center, Asia, India

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