Sixteen-month-old My and her mother, Hat, live in Quy Nhon, on Vietnam’s eastern coast. When Hat was pregnant with My, she had an ultrasound but it did not reveal My’s cleft lip. Once she was born, Hat’s sister was the one to tell the new mother that My had a cleft lip. Hat said she felt sorrow and guilt for giving birth to a child with a deformity, but fortunately people reassured her that these days there are many good surgeons who would be able to fix her daughter’s lip.
Hat stays home to care for her children, while her husband, a fisherman in Quy Nhon, is away from home for work. She feels lucky that his parents do not reject My, explaining that sometimes a husband’s parents will think a cleft or any other deformity is the mother’s fault, and judge her and the baby. In Vietnamese culture, it is common for a mother and child to be stigmatized and isolated if the child is born with a congenital deformity like a cleft lip.
Hat strived to find help for her daughter. In 2013 they came to the ReSurge clinic day in Quy Nhon, but the team could not help at that time because she was too young for surgery. This year they returned showing resilience and determination to get help, but they arrived to clinic day late, making My the last patient to be screened by our team. The team had no choice but to put her on the waiting list, watching the concern on Hat’s face all afternoon and sensing her fear that it would again not work out for her daughter to get treatment.
When doing rounds the next morning, the team discovered that another little girl was unfit for surgery. Our coordinators immediately called Hat, who was at home with My, about to feed her a teaspoon of rice when the phone rang. When she discovered it was ReSurge calling, she screamed for My not to eat the rice, since she knew that patients cannot eat before surgery. She was ecstatic that My would at last have the opportunity to get her lip repaired.
When My’s mother came in to the recovery room, she rushed to My’s bed and looked very closely at her lip. Hat was clearly very happy, and My eventually woke up, looked around, and promptly started nursing. The recovery room nurses said it was the smoothest wake-up they have ever had, and watching happy mother and baby stare at each other after this life-changing surgery was moving. Hat was all smiles, and kept telling us how happy she was while smiling at her daughter’s repaired lip.
The team in Quy Nhon came away incredibly inspired by this mother’s determination for her child to lead a healthy life free of estrangement or scorn.