286 Miles for a Smile.

286 Miles for a Smile.

By Esther Odhiambo, Sherine Atieno and Winney Okoth.

As she started attending school, other children teased her due to her physical look. They wondered why she was different, amidst this her mother stood tall. Today she is on a journey to gain a smile for life…. Destination Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital. (JOOTRH).

This is the story of 30-year-old Mary Wekesa (not her real name), a mother of two al with a cleft palate condition.

Learning that her first child, now a 5-year-old girl, had a lip abnormalcy she was shocked. But when her neighbor commented that it was a condition some children are born with, her worries faded.

“Ignorantly, I assumed that the condition will probably fade away as the child continued growing. I needed to visit the hospital to find a solution.” She said

“I wondered why the caregivers I met during her clinic visits did not say anything concerning my child’s condition, I thought perhaps they could have handled the situation earlier.” She expressively said.

After three years she conceived her second born. The pregnancy was flowless nothing to worry about. The ninth month came and she had a safe delivery.

Unlike her first-born girl, the boy’s condition was not instantly noticeable. A couple of weeks later, she was engulfed in fear noticing that his upper lip was not normal. She took up the responsibility and went back to the hospital to consult because it was serious.

The doctor informed her that the child had a cleft lip and palate and needed surgery which could cost a huge amount. Her heart grew faint as she couldn’t afford the bill, she is just a casual laborer.

Back at school, her preprimary girl went through stigmatization. Some children saw ‘abnormality’ and avoided her. It was hard for her to play, interact or catch up like other children.

Due to her medical conditions, her little one’s education has been in starts and stops. The teacher was considerate and treated her nicely but the case was different with her fellow pupils, not understanding her condition, mocked her and she feared going to school.

After twelve months, one Dr. Kanga called and briefed her that there would be surgery for cleft lip and palate at JOOTRH in Kisumu.

“He was uncertain of the date and promised to communicate upon confirmation, mid-April I received confirmation and went for screening.

She traveled 460 kilometers from Lodwar to Kisumu. With a determination to change perceptions toward her two children. At the cockerel of Sunday, they had their eyes set to arrive at JOOTRH by 10 am to catch up with the registration and screening.

Did she say she has never been to Kisumu? Perhaps, only heard it from the news through its landmark of Lake Victoria and fresh tilapia. For the sake of her two children, she had to tour the region through the gate of medication.

By 9 am she was already seated at the bench waiting for the service to beat the queue with other parents who also came for the same purpose as her.

” The reception was good and the medics who conducted the screening were so warm and professional.” She said. “When I saw my children being screened, it meant a lot to me. At least they would be like other children.”

For her, it was a route of transformation for her motherhood and her children. Seemingly, she had gone through stigmatization for siring two children of the same kind. She said it was difficult for the two to eat and all she could do was to give them liquid or pound foods.

Sitting on her lap in a nap covered by a baby soul was her one-and-a-half-year-old baby and in her arms was a 5-year-old girl in a bright pink dress, all looking okay awaiting the smile.

While conversing with her, she vested her hope in the doctors and looked forward to a successful surgical session. ” I am not strained and I’ll love my children to be okay.” She remarked.

A bold woman enough with a sparkling melanin she was. She hankered that other parents whose children have the same situation should be free to bring their children to get the aid. They should not have any ignominy. A real mother will seek help for her child’s comfort.

The mother of two pronounced gratitude to JOOTRH Smile Train partners, medics, and other sponsors for the plan of action and propound on continuous schemes so that many people can be targeted.

“Parenthood is a leap into the unknown. If you learn your child has a defect, the sense of being in the dark intensifies,” she marked as we tied off the session.


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