Before and after in Madagascar
When Mampionona was born, his mother did not know what to say. She had just seen her sister die from illness. And she was very emotional.
“We named him Mampionona,” Tantely, the baby’s aunt explained. “In Malagasy, it means ‘to heal and to comfort.’ This baby became our healing and our family’s comfort.”
As a newborn, Mampionona had difficulty eating because of his cleft lip. His mother had to feed him milk from a cup. At six months, he started eating solid foods and was able to gain weight.
“This child was a gift – a gift from God,” Tantely said. “God knew that our family needed something special. We had just lived through a traumatic death in the family and this baby was here to comfort us.”
In a larger town nearby, the family had heard of a local doctor who could perform cleft surgery.
“But the surgery was so expensive,” Tantely said. “We tried saving up. In the end, though, we had to spend the money on chickens, rice and household items. There was just no way.”
Another child with cleft
Then Tantely was invited to a wedding in another city. She found herself next to a young mother, rocking a baby girl in her arms. As she glanced at the baby’s face, Tantely’s eyes widened.
Words stumbled out of her mouth. “Does – did – your baby have a cleft?”
“Yes,” the baby’s mother nodded. Less than two months earlier, she had gone to Antsirabe and received free surgery from Operation Smile.
Later that day, Tantely called our hotline number in Madagascar. She spoke to Flex Manantsoa, the patient coordinator for Operation Smile in Madagascar and registered her nephew.
One month later, Flex called the family to let them know that Mampionona would have the chance to receive surgery.
“It was unbelievable!” Tantely said. “I decided to accompany Mampionona to Antsirabe. His mother was pregnant and his grandma cannot travel long distances. So it was my duty to bring him.”
Before Mampionona arrived at the patient village on Friday afternoon, he had never seen another person with a cleft. “Can you believe it?” he asked his aunt. “Look at this village – everyone looks like me! Even the small kids and the babies, even the adults – they all look like me!”
Everyone looks like me!
Mampionona went through screening and was selected for surgery. During the week, they met and talked with other families.
“We all agree that it is such a relief to be here,” Tantely said. “To be taken care of by such nice people, and everything is free. From a place to sleep to soap to wash ourselves. We are so thankful.”
The following week, Mampionona returned to his village. It will be a big change for the villagers. “People will be so shocked and surprised to see him. To see him smile. Now he looks like everyone else,” Tantely said.
“They don’t believe we are really getting surgery” she added. “They think that I must give a piece of my thigh to put on Mampionona’s lip! Can you imagine? Of course, I would give a piece of my thigh if I had too!
“I am going to tell everyone about this experience. I thank everyone on the Operation Smile team. Thank you for giving Mampionona the gift of smiling like all other children. Thank you!”