I clearly remember the day when Navya’s parents brought her to the hospital for the first time. Holding Navya in their arms, her parents looked at me with a lot of expectations and hope. I saw Navya and she was smiling! There was something about her smile which reflected so much positivity. For a doctor like me, who sees patients with clefts undergo a lot of problems, day in and day out, it is these small moments which bring a smile to my face.
As is the case with several other children born with clefts, Navya’s family was not aware of this birth defect and that it can be treated. Since both her older siblings did not have a cleft, and Navya’s parents had never seen one before, they were worried that her condition was ‘abnormal’. My first step was to educate them about her cleft and put them at ease. The way their eyes lit up, when they learnt that clefts can be treated and that free treatment would be provided under the Smile Train India program, touched me.
While walking towards the operation theater to operate on Navya, I saw hope and longing in her parents’ eyes to see their daughter’s new smile. I was sure that they would be in for a pleasant surprise after the surgery, and couldn’t wait to bring a new smile to Navya’s face.
Navya’s bubbly aura, after her surgery, was infectious. Not only her family, but our entire team at the hospital, was smiling with her. Her parents’ eyes were filled with tears, but this time, they were tears of happiness, hope and assurance that their dreams will now be fulfilled.
During Navya’s follow-up visits, the change in her parents was stark. Their earlier worried expressions were replaced with joy. That’s the effect a cleft surgery has on not only the child but also the family.
Navya’s story is just one in thousands that have led to a positive transformation. This is because families of children with clefts are not aware about the treatment. But, due to Smile Train’s efforts, I can confidently say that the wheel is turning fast. In the last decade, the network that Smile Train has built and the number of lives that have been impacted is truly commendable. And with them, we endeavour to gift new smiles to many children like Navya and create many more picture-perfect moments!
Dr. Amit Agrawal is a plastic surgeon and Smile Train Project Director at Vedant Hospital, Gwalior, where Navya underwent cleft Treatment.