When I was a young girl in a Thailand refugee camp, several boys retaliated against my childhood pranks by ganging up on me, held me down, and made another little boy with a severe bilateral cleft lip and palate kiss me. For a long time, I felt very victimized by this. It wasn't until years later when realized that the real victim in this childhood memory was the little boy with the cleft lip and palate. This poor boy was ostracized and his birth defect was used as a means to scare an otherwise very mischievous little girl!
The prevalence of cleft lip, cleft palate, or both in Vietnam is 0.149%, which equates to about 1750 newborns per year. On the surface, people often see this as a simple cosmetic defect or monstrous deformity. But underneath the cosmetic problem, these children often have difficulty feeding without aspirating, leading to high risk for ear, sinus, and lung infections. Chronic ear infections often result in hearing loss. These children also have problems with speech, leading to developmental delay, not to mention the social stigma affecting their self esteem. If left untreated, these children often become outcasts to society and are forever dependent on their family for care and support. With 2 simple surgeries (one to restore the lip and a second to repair the palate), Project Vietnam Foundation can restore hope for a brighter future for these children.
As a volunteer for Project Vietnam Foundation, I was able to witness the incredible life changing transformation in our patient physically and mentally. Another bonus is I often get kisses of appreciation from our patients. These kisses have brought me full circle between my past, present, and future.
Myhanh Nguyen, NP
Project Vietnam Foundation Volunteer
photo credit: Dr. Nathan Le.
Review from #MyGivingStory