Every time I attend a surgical mission, there is a person whose journey just steals my heart. There have been over 350 children that have arrived for screening to see who will be accepted for surgery. Out of them 180 were finally scheduled for surgery. This is always the saddest part, those who have to wait another year, it’s eats a whole in everyone’s heart to know that not everyone can be helped.
In this group there were two young boys, 16 and 23 both with massive clefts, brothers in arms. They had travelled over 300km from the South West of the island over a few days to get to Antananarivo. The journey consisted of a few days of walking. Taxi trips and finally they reached the hospital.
We met them, the evening before their surgery, they were alone, nervous and totally overwhelmed with what was happening around them, but they had each other and there was a visible bond. But their journey was to get even tougher. Being older, they would be operated on under local anaesthetic because of the limited facilities in the hospital.
The younger of the two boys came walking down the passage into the theatre, one could see the fear that had begun to grip him, but on he walked proudly into the theatre this was his day, the door to a new life was about the open. Slowly he climbed onto the operating table, he was now visibly shaking as his hands firmly clenched onto the rail of the table, lying back he sighed and closed his eyes. The Malagasy interpreter quietly explained to him what was going to happen as the doctor carefully injected local anaesthetic into his cheeks and mouth. Surgery was about to begin.
Slowly as the surgeon glided his hands through the delicate reconstructive process, the interpreter continued to explain what was happening, tears streamed down the boys face as he lay there, scared but deep down was a heart full of bravery and hope. Eventually my wife and Berinda were standing either side of him holing his hands, just comforting him. They too were overwhelmed by the situation; both of them just stood quietly, tears streaming down their faces as if it was their own child’s hand that they were holding. Here were 2 mothers united in a bond with a child, a natural paternal instinct of care and love.