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Smile Train

Rishika with father

Women are the real strength in our lives life, and I am blessed with double the strength — in the form of my wife and our beautiful daughter, Rishika. She is a bundle of joy, a gift from the Almighty.

But, I still remember the struggle my daughter went through when she was born. Rishika was born with a cleft lip and palate. It was an unusual and unexpected sight for us when we first looked at her. We were deeply saddened when we learnt about her cleft and wondered if she would be able to lead a happy life like other kids. The eagerness and happiness to have her in our lives, was shattered in a split second. It was not just the cleft that made her life difficult, she was also born underweight, which made the journey harder. 

Friends and relatives started pouring in to see Rishika, but, my wife would hide her from them. My relatives believed she won’t survive for long as she had been cursed due to her mother’s bad karma. The life ahead for my daughter and us, seemed dark. Today, when I look back, I can’t believe that I was influenced by our neighbours and relatives to such an extent that I thought of disowning my own child.

I still regret that thought and it makes me cringe... but I am grateful that my wife was strong and decided to step up for her daughter. She pulled us out of this dark tunnel, which seemed to have no light at the end.

But it was a long journey...

Rishika was malnourished and would just lay in a blanket like a lifeless doll. We couldn’t feed her, neither could we see her first smile. There was no hope for her improvement and we were helpless. 

One day a team from Meenakshi Hospital, Thanjavur, conducting a cleft screening camp near our village, visited us. They counseled us and informed us that clefts can be treated and surgery would be provided free of cost. We didn’t believe them until we saw pictures of other children with clefts and their transformation post-surgery. 

We visited Meenakshi Hospital where they screened our daughter and advised us to wait for the surgery as she was underweight. But I was convinced that my daughter would be fine now and never missed a single appointment.

Rishika before and after surgery

Soon, Rishika underwent surgery and we were surprised when we first saw her. Today, her smile is my strength! Smile Train and Meenakshi Hospital restored my daughter’s smile and now, her winsome smile has made her everyone’s favourite in the neighbourhood! It's so reassuring to know that Smile Train is helping families like us and I wish them all the best in their efforts to bring smiles around.

Shared by Rishika’s father. Rishika was provided cleft lip and cleft palate surgery at Smile Train India’s program at Meenakshi Hospital, Thanjavur. 

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