The inaugural mission of Operation Smile to Malawi and on Thursday November 15 the 64 member team arrived in Lilongwe. Two days of screening of approximately 250 potential patients for surgery. Then a day of setting up the operating room, the wards, the record keeping tables, the photographic team in place and all ready to go on the Monday morning. Six operating tables and one after the other lip and/or palate transformed to what it was intended to be.
While we were all working away little did we know about a drama in its own that started to unfold in the neighbouring Zambia, A mother with a 5 month old boy that was born with a cleft lip got a message about the operations done in Lilongwe and gave hope for her child. A friend of hers in church in Lilongwe got a message through from Lilongwe to her in a remote village in Zambia. With courage and determination she prepared for her journey.
No guarantee that she will be in time before the team would leave or that they would do her from a different country. Four busses and two days later she arrived at the hospital. The team was packing up. It was 10 o'clock on the Friday. And the last cases done under local anaesthetic. She was breast feeding, so the baby had eaten and not safe for a general anaesthetic. Unbeknown to me I was asked if I would do another baby but only at two o'clock. Sure. And everything fell in place. By three o'clock the baby was back in his mother's arm, lip repaired and breast feeding - mother and child content, happy and thankful.
Christian plastic surgeon William (Bill) Magee and his wife Kathleen, who believe that nobody should walk around with an unrepaired cleft lip; a 45 minute operation that radically changes lives, founded Operation Smile in 1982 - 30 years ago their first mission in the Philippines where it was celebrated this year in November
Operation Smile co-founder Kathleen and Bill Magee confer with the parent of a toddler with cleft condition at the medical mission in Naga City, home of the worldwide humanitarian group. Joining the Naga mission are Operation Smile Philippines president and executive director Roberto Manzano (2nd from left, back row) and Smart Public Affairs head Ramon Isberto (rightmost, back row).