As India braves a 21-day country-wide lockdown to control COVID-19 transmission, parents of cleft patients find hope and comfort in the form of Smile Train India’s toll-free cleft helpline. Our Helpline Officer, Gomathi, is still taking calls — counselling and guiding cleft patients from her home, and enabling them to reach out in these difficult times.
On March 20, while most of the Smile Train India team was working from home, the toll-free line was still being operated from the office premises. However, our Vice President and Regional Director, Mamta, anticipated that the Government may announce restricted movement soon. Quick thinking on her part and exemplary teamwork between our colleagues Gomathi, Ravi, Neeraj, and Anjali, led to the setting up of a mechanism to provide a home office for Gomathi and a call forwarding facility for the toll-free number over the weekend itself. The toll-free number was made functional from Gomathi’s home on March 23, just in the nick of time before India went into an immediate lockdown from the midnight of March 24.
Distraught parents of new-borns with clefts find solace in talking to Gomathi and knowing that help is at hand. Just a few days ago, a young mother with a 2-day-old baby called in. She was alone and frightened, as her husband and his family abandoned her because the baby had a cleft. Talking to Gomathi and the knowledge that her baby would get free treatment at her closest Smile Train centre in the near future gave her hope. Gomathi also counselled her on how to take care of the baby and shared links of videos on how to feed her child. They plan to be in regular contact till the environment is conducive for a hospital visit.
On a lighter note, one parent had called to ask about the treatment for his child and the nearest cleft centre. After talking to him for a while, Gomathi coughed a little. The parent got worried and exclaimed, “Ma’am, I hope you don’t have Corona!” Gomathi was quite amused and told him, “Don’t worry! I don’t, and even if I did, it can’t be transmitted via a phone line.” Both had a good laugh and the call ended on a cheerful note.
In Gomathi’s words, “Knowing that I am able to comfort parents with cleft babies even in these uncertain and difficult times gives me great satisfaction. I don’t hesitate to answer calls even at night and over the weekends.”
As shared by the Smile Train India team.
* Smile Train Toll-Free Cleft Helpline is supported by GSK Mission Health.