Pediatrician Elodi Priranja of Madagascar leads a workshop on breastfeeding techniques for parents whose babies are too small to receive safe surgery during Operation Smile's 2017 medical mission to Antsirabe. In the isolated island nation of Madagascar, one of the world's poorest countries, there are very few nongovernmental organizations supporting the connection of impoverished patients with essential health care services. Here, malnutrition is a widespread health hazard and a significant barrier to surgery for many young patients. At this medical mission, 113 of the more than 500 children who received a preoperative health evaluation were unable to receive surgery due to malnutrition. In response to this dire need, Operation Smile in Madagascar runs a patient feeding program to help underweight and malnourished children get the nutrition they need to become healthy enough to receive surgery. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.
Volunteers prepare food for the patients staying at the Antsirabe patient village, an example of how the volunteers and staff of Operation Smile go to great lengths to ensure that patients and their families have the best possible experience during the medical mission process. For many families here, their presence at the mission site requires a major sacrifice of precious resources like time missed away from work. Operation Smile Program Officer Morgan Bober: “Operation Smile in Madagascar continues to take our responsibility to care for the Malagasy people to the next level. Our team is committed to relieving patients’ financial burdens by assisting with transportation and providing food at the medical mission. We’re incorporating education and skills training at the mission site to further support the economic needs and futures of these families. Through our outreach, Operation Smile in Madagascar is creating a strong community between patients, volunteers and staff members so that families affected by cleft can understand that they are not alone and that we’ll be there to support them and others in need of safe surgical care for as long as it takes.” Photo: Zute Lightfoot.
Heritiana, the 6-year-old boy featured in our previous Madagascar field update, is all smiles after passing his comprehensive health evaluation and being selected for surgery. At last year's Operation Smile Antsirabe medical mission, his health evaluation determined that he was suffering from pneumonia, which resulted in him being unable to receive surgery due to the ailment. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.
In the child life room, Heritiana prepares for his procedure by playing with an anesthesia mask as his father Olivier watches over him. In addition to providing critical psychosocial and emotional support for patients and their families, Operation Smile volunteer psychosocial care providers use therapeutic play to help children become more confident to receive surgery. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.
Heritiana's father, Olivier, beams with joy and happiness as he embraces his son in the post operative room just after Heritiana received his life-changing surgery. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.
Dr. Pernille Lindholm of Sweden performs cleft surgery during the 2017 Antsirabe Medical Mission. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.
Elisa, 22 years old, looks in the mirror for the first time after receiving surgery on her cleft lip. Before her procedure, Elisa said that her dream was to be able to wear lipstick and be able to kiss her husband. Anton Potgieter, a plastic surgeon from South Africa, was able to perform her surgery under local anesthesia. “I am pretty sure she will be able to kiss her husband and paint her lips after this has healed,” Potgieter said. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.
Patients laugh and dance as a Zumba dance class is in full swing for patients staying at the Antsirabe patient village. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.