Ra’ada’s anxiety was written on her face and apparent from the way she held her baby – not letting her go, for even a second. Her unease became even more apparent as she began to open up about her journey to Operation Smile.
In 2012, Ra’ada’s home fell under attack in Syria. For months she and her family had been avoiding the chaos that had erupted in their country the best that they could, but her husband realized it was finally time to pack things up and find refuge elsewhere. Most of Ra’ada’s family remained in Syria while she and her husband relocated to Jordan.
After settling down in Jordan, Ra’ada learned that she had become pregnant with her first child, Sham. Like any mother to be, she was excited to meet her child and was full of hope and happiness. However, when Sham was born, Ra’ada was introduced to cleft lip and cleft palate for the first time in her life. She had never heard of the condition before and she immediately fainted when she saw her child.
Doctors reassured her that her baby could be able to receive surgery, but Ra’ada couldn’t fathom surgery on such a small baby and she was scared. When the new mother and baby returned to their home, family and friends were frightened by what they saw. Ra’ada’s family stopped visiting her because they could not bear to see Sham’s face.
Determined to learn everything she could about cleft lip and cleft palate, Ra’ada visited a local hospital when she heard from a friend that there were children with the same condition as Sham. For the first time, she saw other children like her own, though she was lucky to see those children both before and after surgery. When she saw the remarkable postoperative results, she knew it was time to bring Sham in but was concerned about the cost of surgery. She was able to borrow enough money from family and friends for surgery on her cleft lip, but Sham was still left with a cleft palate – something Ra’ada and her husband could no longer afford to get fixed.
It was at Al Bashir Hospital in Jordan, where the surgeon, Dr. Mahmoud Bataineh, informed Ra’ada about Operation Smile. When Ra’ada heard there was an upcoming program, she immediately knew she would bring Sham in to have her cleft palate operated on as well.
Sham received her second surgery and was able to go home without any complications in the warm hands of her anxiety free mother.
- Amber Khan, Operation Smile Student Volunteer