A Dream Come True
Fred has a strong will to survive.
He was born with cleft lip and palate. Fred was unable to breast feed because he couldn’t close his lips. His mother, Sissy, gave him cow’s milk—even though it was barely affordable for them. She mashed his bananas. All in an effort to save his life.
Every time he ate or drank, the food or liquids seeped through the hole in the roof of his mouth and down the side of his face.
Most children with untreated cleft lip and palate, in poor countries, die of malnutrition before their first birthday.
But Fred was still alive at six years of age! His friends gave him the nickname, “Survivor.” He earned it.
When people saw Fred with his mother, Sissy, they would say, “Sorry.”
The neighbourhood children often pointed at him and laughed. Fred would cover his mouth, run back home and cry in a corner of the house. He felt isolated, humiliated and alone.
Yusuf, Fred’s father, said, “The older he gets, the more people will laugh. He won’t fit in society.”
Fred tried to say something, but his words were unclear and nasal. Only his mother understood him. She repeated, “Fred said he won’t go to school if his mouth isn’t fixed. He knows the kids will all laugh at him.”
His parents look down at the floor. They’re fully aware that if Fred doesn’t get an education, he’ll be locked in poverty forever.
A stitch in time
Fred’s mom, Sissy, sells charcoal, tomatoes and maize at her market stall. Often there are no customers. Fred’s dad, Yusuf, is a builder/labourer but he only gets the odd contract. Two of their five children live with Sissy’s sister because there isn’t enough room for them in their small rented, one-room house.
Surgery was definitely unaffordable for them. But, the longer they waited, the more problematic the operation would be because the gap in the upper palate grew wider every year. Plus, the older he got the more difficult it would become to teach him to speak after he had the repair work done. A stitch in time would save nine.
Surgery to smile about
Then a cbm worker found Fred.
The family was so happy to hear that cbm supporters would fund the operation and treatment! Fred would look normal, he would be able to eat and drink properly, and he would start speech therapy. Eventually he would attend school!
Fred’s dad, Yusuf, said, “Right now, I’m feeling good that Fred will get help. Before I was feeling bad. I wanted Fred to be taken for surgery, but I didn’t have the money.”
After the surgery, Fred immediately started to feel more confident.
He used to be afraid to go out in public. But after the operation he even helps his mother sell food at the market stall. Something he never used to do. No one laughs at him anymore.
His eating has improved as well! His mother proudly said, “Fred’s appetite is much bigger now and he eats a lot more. Especially rice and cabbage—they’re his favourite.”
When Fred goes to church he thanks God for what He has done for him.
A good dream
The cbm worker, Alex Asiimwe, came for a follow-up visit with Fred and his family. Fred was wearing a pair of oversized sunglasses and cap he and his brother, Robert, had bought from the money they had saved from fetching water and sodas for people.
With a smile on her face and a giggle in her voice, Sissy said Fred is trying to look like Bobby Wine (a very famous Ugandan musician).
His mother told the cbm worker that for several weeks after the surgery, Fred repeatedly dreamt about the operation that had already taken place.
While looking approvingly at Fred, Sissy said, “Fred would wake up in the middle of the night and get a mirror, look inside and smile. The following morning he would stand in front of the mirror again and feel his mouth, lips and nose and feel happy.”
“It’s a good dream,” Fred said. It certainly is a dream come true.