Many volunteers gathered in Sisaket in September 2015 to join our medical mission at the Sisaket Hospital for a few days. Some came from Bangkok, some from Singapore, some from Norway, some from California. Some by car, some by plane, and some by motorcycle. A handful of volunteers were also lucky enough to visit the homes of three of the children who would receive surgery in the coming days, to truly understand the backgrounds these families come from.
The three families we visited all had different stories and different ways of providing for their children with cleft lip and/or palate, but they all had one thing in common: without financial help, it would be very hard for them to afford the surgery their child so desperately needed. These families were already working more than normal jobs to afford powdered milk formula for their kids who couldn’t be breastfed because of their condition – even grandparents went back to work to help provide for them.
All of the volunteers who were fortunate enough to join our pre-surgery visits had an extremely rewarding experience and learned a lot about the kinds of families their support helps. Especially those who have not lived in Southeast Asia saw a very different kind of living situation than they were used to, and most were humbled by how friendly and open these families were, despite their tougher conditions. We bonded with the children over toys and dancing, peek-a-boo and laughter, and everyone left those houses with a huge smile on their faces. This was truly an educational and fulfilling experience for us all.
We plan to follow these three kids in the future too, so that we can see them grow up and develop. If you would like to join us following them, please check here.
Zach Vinci was one of the supporters who joined us for the Pre-Surgery Visits and the Medical Mission that followed. Read his story here.
Non (Pichaipat by given name)
Arriving at Non’s family’s house was quite special. He himself was very quiet, probably overwhelmed by our presence. Additionally, the whole village seemed to have come to take a peek at the family and their international visitors. His mother shyly but proudly invited us to sit and talk. Non comes from Surin province in the North Eastern part of Thailand, where he lives together with his mom, dad and a sister five years elder than him, called Bai Mon.
When Non’s mom was pregnant, she did not take ultrasound. They therefore did not know that Non had a cleft lip before the day he was born. The mother was very sad and shocked when she saw Non was born with a cleft. They bought a special plastic nipple for him, but this didn’t work well either, so they started early to feed him with formula milk.
We met Non also a few weeks later when he came back to the hospital for the post-op check up to see that everything was developing fine with his surgery. Non is developing very well and we are looking forward to see him again later.
To see more photos from our visit to Non and his family, please scroll down to the gallery at the bottom of the page. You can also read more about Non here, where you will find photos from the medical mission and some more after-photos.
Ping (Jittipat by given name)
Visiting Ping and his family was also very heartwarming. Ping was a little more serious and maybe skeptical at first, but he was clearly a happy kid who was loved dearly by his family. His grandmother in particular was very obviously both proud and caring when it came to her grandson.
Ping comes from Sisaket province in the North Eastern part of Thailand, where he lives together with his mom, an older sister and his grandparents. His father left the family when Ping was born.
Ping’s mom, Khun Thipsuda, was very sad when she saw Ping was born with cleft lip and cleft palate. She fed him by using a syringe to squeeze milk into his mouth, since he could not suck milk from his mom’s breast. When he became a bit older, his grandmother tried to feed him with a milk bottle. He could manage it, but they had to lift his head up to avoid choking. Anyway, as he had cleft palate, sometimes milk would come out through his nose.
He was eight months old at the time we visited, which was only a couple of days before he went to the OST medical mission at Sisaket Hospital to get surgery. Unfortunately, Ping had fever and sore throat on that day and could therefore not receive surgery. He was sent home and would have to come back for surgery later. This was of course a big disappointment for his mother and the rest of the family. However, in February 2016, five months later, Ping received his surgery and is now doing very well. He is a lively and healthy boy, and he is very social and loves attention. We are looking very much forward to follow him in the coming years.
To see more photos from our visit to Ping and his family, please scroll down to the gallery at the bottom of the page. You can also read more about Ping here, where you will find photos from the medical mission and some more after-photos.
PP (Peeradol by given name)
When we came to PP’s home it was a different setting. It was quieter, but PP himself had more than enough energy to make up for that! He could not stop jumping around and showing us his toys, all with a huge smile on his face.
PP comes from Surin province in the North Eastern part of Thailand, where he lives together with his grandparents. PP’s mom, Khun Vipadee, was 19 when PP was born. She lives in another province, as there she could find work. The mom could not breastfeed PP because he was not able to suck. She therefore started to feed him using a syringe and squeezing milk into his mouth. The doctor also helped make an artificial palate for PP, which could help with the drinking and block the milk and food from coming out of his nose, but PP didn’t feel comfortable with this and often pulled it out. He therefore didn’t use it for long.
Khun Vipadee had ultrasound during the pregnancy, but during this it was not discovered that PP had cleft lip and cleft palate. The whole family felt very sad and they cried together after PP was born with his birth defect. Surin hospital informed PP’s family about the Operation Smile Thailand’s medical mission, and they were very relieved when they got to know that the defects could be repaired by surgery and that PP could receive the surgery free of charge by very skilled doctors.
PP was seven months old at the time we visited him, and this was just a couple of days before he went to the OST medical mission at Sisaket Hospital. Here he got his life-changing surgery. The surgery was successful, and it was great to meet him a few weeks after the surgery and see how much he had changed and how well he was doing. We are looking forward to follow PP in the years to come.
To see more photos from our visit to PP and his family, please scroll down to the gallery at the bottom of the page. You can also read more about PP here, where you will find photos from the medical mission and some more after-photos too.
Photo credits: ©Kids Action for Kids / Soundhill Photo