If you’ve been following the story of 2-year-old Ntlelo on our website, you’ll be delighted to hear that she was one of 22 children and adults who received life changing surgery last weekend during Operation Smile SA’s surgical programme in Mthatha.

Ntlelo was born with a cleft lip and palate. Her mother, Mhlamunye, was shocked and heartbroken, as she did not know anything about the condition.

“I had never seen or heard of such a thing before. I didn’t know what to do or who to talk to. People in my community laughed at me, and it hurt.”

Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha

Last year, when she heard that the Operation Smile SA team was coming to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha, mother and child traveled over 100km from their home in Lusikisiki to seek help. Ntlelo was one of 23 patients who was given a beautiful new smile.

This year, Mhlamunye brought Ntlelo back to Mthatha for surgery to repair her cleft palate, which is critical for speech development. We were also able to assess the results of her earlier operation, which speak for themselves in these ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures.

Early intervention

Operation Smile SA’s Programme Manager, Fiola Lujabe, emphasised the importance of timely intervention.

“The longer a child born with a cleft must wait for surgery, the more severe their potential health, developmental, and psychological complications become. The encouraging news is that cleft conditions can often be surgically corrected in a remarkably brief 45-minute procedure when performed by a proficient medical team”.

Operation Smile’s dedicated team of volunteers consists of highly specialised professionals, including plastic and reconstructive surgeons, anaesthesiologists, paediatricians, nurses, dentists, speech therapists, and psychosocial experts.

Comprehensive Care

Working tirelessly in collaboration with the medical staff at the hospital, the team provided the highest standard of compassionate care, free of charge, to each young patient. This comprehensive care includes transport, accommodation, nourishment, medical assessments, surgeries, and post-surgical evaluations, including speech and dental assessments.

Beyond the essential surgical interventions, the weekend programme provides a unique opportunity to share knowledge and expertise with local medical professionals and surgical registrars, thus elevating the standard of medical competence in cleft care and surgery within the region.

Over the weekend, Operation Smile also ran dental and speech therapy education and training workshops.

Eastern Cape MEC for Health, Nomakhosazana Meth, said she was happy Operation Smile SA volunteers had returned to the province.

“We are grateful for the partnership with Operation Smile SA. We are delighted to have the superheroes of volunteers transform our people’s lives again.”

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