Three years after receiving cleft lip surgery from Operation Smile Ghana, Iddrisah shows off his new smile. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.

 

Having lived his entire life with an untreated cleft lip, Iddrisah never expected to find love. Instead, he became used to abuse and isolation from his own family and community. He can’t remember exactly what his bullies said to him growing up. But Iddrisah still recalls the exact moment he first laid eyes on the woman who would become his wife.

He was at work when he glanced up and saw her walking by. He was immediately drawn to her. But he never believed that she would be interested in a man who had a cleft lip. Iddrisah kept seeing the woman walking down that same road. And one day, he gathered the courage to introduce himself.

He learned that her name was Asani.

Love conquers all

Their conversations became more frequent, and were the highlight of Iddrisah’s day. After several months, he told Asani that he loved her. Despite everything they had shared together and the love he felt for her, he still feared that no one would ever love him in return. But he was wrong. Asani told him that she loved him, too, and would be happy to marry him. It was the love and respect he’d always hoped to receive.

Marrying Asani and raising their three children together brought immense joy to Iddrisah’s life. But he never stopped dreaming of surgery to repair his cleft condition. Many years later, a friend handed him a poster about Operation Smile. He travelled to a surgical programme in Cape Coast in his home country of Ghana. But he was not selected for surgery. There are simply not enough resources, time or medical volunteers to care for every patient.

He was advised to try again. Having already been denied surgery once, Iddrisah said his heart was beating very fast as he waited to hear the surgical schedule. Then, his name was called. After living 66 years with an untreated cleft condition, Iddrisah now has the smile that he wanted and deserved all along.

“I always thought I would go to my grave with a cleft lip,” he said. “Grateful thanks to Operation Smile for changing my life, for changing me. Now I am happy.”

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