Seven years after marriage, H Farheen Sultana conceived bringing joy to the family. But when the twins were born, she was shattered to see they had cleft lips and palate, a facial and oral malformation. Fortunately, a hospital in Vellore guided them to Sri Ramachandra Hospital where the boys, now in Class 9, underwent three surgeries starting at the age of 11 months. The boys, V H Mohammad Danish and V H Mohammad Daniyal, now look normal.
In India, three children are born with cleft lip every hour. The children with cleft palate require at least two corrective surgeries. Head of plastic surgery, cleft and craniofacial center Dr Jyotsna Murthy said the birth defect, which happens within four weeks of pregnancy, is seen more in boys. Though various factors like environment, genetic, vitamin deficiency and exposure to pollution can lead to such defects, scientists are yet to pin down the ultimate cause. "It is ideal to begin treatment when the baby is three months old and a surgery has to be done before the child completes one year. This helps the baby start speaking without a problem. Follow-up is equally important," said Dr Murthy at Cleft Week, which is on at the hospital till August 20.
Cleft palate surgeries have made a huge difference to the lives of many. Rajesh, 29, of Tiruvannamalai could not pursue a career in teaching, until he underwent a series of secondary corrective surgeries in 2008, as he had speech problems. "I would often get angry as I had to repeat whatever I said. Today, I can speak well and train my students," said Rajesh, who teaches computer science and Maths in a private school at Tiruvannamalai.