• July 7th, 2020

Children with facial deformities: Not all hope is lost

WINDHOEK – Shock and disbelief were written all over *Vistorina’s face four years ago when, after giving birth, she learned that her baby boy was born with a facial defect.

Vistorina’s baby was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are openings or splits in the upper lip, the roof of the mouth (palate) or both. Cleft lip and cleft palate result when facial structures that develop in an unborn baby do not close completely.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common birth defects. According to the Mayo Clinic website, cleft lip and cleft palate most commonly occur as isolated birth defects but are also associated with many inherited genetic conditions or syndromes.

In most babies, a series of surgeries can restore normal function and achieve a near normal appearance with minimal scarring, according to Mayo Clinic.

“I was not expecting it at all,” related the young mother who is now 25 years old. 
The next day, Vistorina and her baby boy, who live in Mariental, were on a bus on their way to Windhoek for an operation that would restore the baby’s facial features. This was thanks to the Nampharm Foundation Trust that made provision for over 100 children with cleft lips and cleft palates to be operated and subsequently enhancing their facial appearances. But, the operation could not take place as the medical personnel detected that the infant had a heart defect. 

“They told me that he had a hole in the heart and that they couldn’t do the operation that time and that they would operate on him when the hole closed,” said Vistorina.

Her son was eventually operated in 2017. First, they reconstructed his lips and this week Wednesday he will be operated to repair the cleft palette.

“He can talk but he struggles with the clicks and he speaks through the nose.  But he looks very good,” she said proudly. 
Vistorina reminisced on the time she thought her son’s future would be bleak due to his condition. 
“I did not know then that he would be operated on and that he would look this good. So I felt bad because what will the people say about the child. But they told me after a while that they will send us to Windhoek for the operation and that made me feel much better,” said the 25-year-old, adding that the boy’s father initially disowned him for having the condition. 

“He told people that he was not the father of my son but I was okay with it,” she said emotionally.
But after the first operation, the child’s father could not believe the changes, she related. Her encouragement to parents whose children are born with the condition is:  “If the child is born without other serious conditions then they will be surgically restored so mothers who have children like mine should not despair.” 
Today, Vistorina’s son lives a normal life. 

“On Friday they had athletics at school but we could not attend because we are here,” she shared. 
Also speaking to the Health Focus was 36-year-old Josephine Simon from Ohangwena. She said her four previous babies were born with no defect or health challenges and so when her baby girl Naemi was born she was shocked.  The child is now 14 months old. 

“I was shocked when I saw my daughter has this condition. Until now I’m touched by her condition, when I look at her I am in disbelief,” she said with tears streaming down her face. 

Apart from her condition, the active toddler who was playing as her mother spoke to the Health Focus is not sickly, Simon noted. “Unless she catches a cold, which is not that often,” she added. 
Simon and the child’s father are also not on good terms. “Sometimes he says it’s not his child,” Simon added. 

*Identity concealed as per source’s request.

Alvine Kapitako
2019-04-08 10:05:10 | 1 years ago

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