A youth day gift

It was my first trip to the magnificent Albert Lutuli hospital in KZN. I was invited to join up with Prof Anil Madre, Mehul and his wife Khushma, of Operation Smile to be part of a magical moment – to experience corrective surgery, giving a child his God given right to a smile. No matter how many times I have experienced this, it is still so heart wrenching to see these little children with their clefts.

My soft Woolies teddy in hand I walked into the pre-operation room to meet little Sbulelo and his mother. I was greeted by a very nervous and, in a way, scared mom. There is nothing one can really say to quell the parental fear that a mom goes through just before her child is taken away into theatre, into the unknown. In my mind I knew that the fear and anguish was soon to be rewarded, but there is nothing that one can say at that moment to a parent – sometimes just a hug means more.

Sbulelo was oblivious to what was going on around him, wrapped in his little theatre gown and cap he was enjoying the new environment. I gave him his teddy, his face lit up as he reached for it looking at me with his cute but twisted little face. I had to leave now; I gave his mom a big hug, all I could say was “Be strong” as I fought back my emotions. Enveloped in moms loving protective arms little Sbulelo was taken into theatre and nervously given over to the anaesthetist. As I watched them walk away, I knew that when he awakes, there will be a dream that will come true.

In theatre, quietly and calmly Prof. Anil began the reconstructive surgery, talking his way through each procedure his hands gliding to and fro as he worked weaving a web of magic. In the back ground the symphony monitors quietly beeped and ticked in unison as the surgery unfolded.

Just on the hour Anil completed the last stitch. He slowly leaned back, and looked at the little face from a distance, in a way admiring his work, leaning forward he lovingly wiped down this beautiful little face with damp gauze and said “Our patient is complete”.

Outside the theatre, feet nervously tapping on the floor, quietly staring into nothing Sbulelo’s mom just wished the time away, longing to hold that little bundle of love in her arms once again. Her calmness was suddenly interrupted with the sound of approaching footsteps, she noticeably froze and looked up at the nurse, who just smiled and gestured to her to follow.

She shot up and could not contain the emotion and excitement of what she was about to witness as she scurried after the nurse. Suddenly her pace slowed as she entered the ward, just starring ahead at the bed where her son was quietly lying, his little arm just moving, walking up to him, her hand slowly cupping her mouth as the tears trickled down her face. Bending down she for the first time saw his angelic little face. Wave upon wave of emotion swept through her as softly stroked his back and just smiled within.

I have just witnessed a child’s life changed forever, a mother’s parental bond rekindled and a family united.
Today is Youth Day and there is a little boy in KZN called Sbulelo who has just woken up, and for the first time he can Smile. “That’s the difference”.

It’s a privilege to be part of this journey.

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