You might know by now that I’m a huge supporter of Interplast, an amazing charity that helps to change the lives of people in less fortunate countries, who otherwise would never have access to the surgery they desperately need to live a normal life. I feel extremely honoured that Interplast shared this story of a little boy, Iowane from Fiji, with a cleft lift – it’s truly heartbreaking and heartwarming all at the same time.
Iowane, from Fiji, was born with a cleft lip and the social effect it has on his life was massive. As a 4 year old, he never left his mother’s skirt as she tried to protect him from the teasing and taunts of not just other children, but society in general.
Iowane’s condition impacted on his relationships in his community, but it also created big complications when it came to eating and growing healthily. While Iowane is a tall boy for his age, he is painfully shy. His mother Saumia said she always felt ashamed of his deformity. Interplast tell us this is a common response from parents in the countries in which they work. However, Saumia also desperately wanted surgery for little Iowane and said it was her dream to find someone to fix his lip and had promised her little boy over the years that she would find someone to do it so the other children wouldn’t tease him any more, or look at him as though he were so different.
Interplast send surgical teams to communities such as the one Iowane lives in and last year surgeons Craig MacKinnon and Sarah Usmar operated on Iowane’s cleft lip with amazing results. They say little Iowane recovered super quickly and was even able to purse his lips to blow bubbles the next day!!
I was told that Iowane’s mother Saumia breathed a huge sigh of relief when she was told that her son’s surgery was a success, and that she cried – no doubt with relief and hope that her son would now be accepted into society and be able to make friends and play like every four year old should. She would have been relieved, like every mother, that her son had a chance of a better life and better future ahead of him.
It’s stories like Iowane’s that make me even more proud of our Australian plastic surgeons. Many of them are involved in charities like Interplast (you can read some of their stories below), and the lives that they change for these little children and adults cannot be underestimated or undervalued. When we live in a society where access to this type of surgery is taken for granted, I feel it’s important for those of us in a position to support these charities should absolutely do so.
To find out more about Interplast’s life-changing work, visit www.interplast.org.au, sign up for e-updates or click https://www.interplast.org.au/donate to make a donation that will help change futures.