For Arshad and Raziya from Pakistan, it was difficult to digest when their son was born with a severe cleft (a gap in the soft tissue, bone, or both) on his face. People, even relatives, began to shun the child on seeing his deformed face.
Luckily for the couple, help came from India, when a senior surgeon at a private hospital in Chennai performed a complex facial reconstructive surgery on the 18-month-old boy and ensured that he would live a normal life.
The child, Noman Ali, was born with a severe face defect called bilateral Tessier’s facial cleft which began in his mouth and extended all the way to his nose and eye sockets, affecting his vision as well.
He did not have a left eye since his birth. His right eye was damaged since it did not have any eyelids and was exposed for the past 18 months.
Doctor S M Balaji of Balaji Dental and Craniofacial Hospital, who performed the surgery, said, “The baby could not eat properly, see or talk due to his cleft. The condition is caused due to the absence of a gene and also the lack of proper protein supply that helps in tissue and bone formation in the face.”
Children born with such deformity suffer immense difficulties in developing weight, speech, breathing, speaking and also undergo psychological trauma because of their appearance, he added.
Noman was referred to India two weeks ago through a senior Pakistani surgeon Dr Asif Arian, who is the President of Asia Pacific Dental Federation.
“In a procedure that lasted for four hours, we initially redirected the tears, which were pouring out due to the lack of eyelids, into the nose. Then we reconstructed his eyelids, palette and lip,” said Dr Balaji.
The doctor ensured that the child could blink and said that he has regained 50% vision in his right eye. He also placed an artificial prosthesis in his left eye to give the face a more normal appearance.
“In six months we will perform another procedure to ensure bone growth in his face so the tissue around it can fuse well,” said the doctor.
Arshad, the baby’s father, said, “It was very difficult to bring up Noman in a surrounding where everyone avoided looking at him. We had our apprehensions before coming to India as many people back home told us that the environment would be hostile. But now my son has a chance at a normal childhood, thanks to the medical expertise here.”
Dr Balaji said consanguineous marriages and radiation exposure during pregnancy could cause such anomalies in babies.
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