During Effie Saling’s pregnancy, she daydreamed of all the ways her child would change her life, and in her mind, she was prepared for any challenge that motherhood could bring. However, when she learned that her son, Aeroshee, had been born with a cleft lip and palate, she broke down crying and questioned her entire belief system — this wasn’t motherhood as she imagined it.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long before Effie put Aeroshee’s birth in perspective — she had the son she’d prayed for, and mourning some idealised version of motherhood wasn’t helping anyone. Aeroshee would need her to be strong, so feelings of grief and regret were replaced by thankfulness and resolve.
Effie’s positive attitude was immediately tested when she took Aeroshee home and his severe cleft palate made breastfeeding impossible. When she tried bottle feeding with a popular and affordable soy-based formula, Aeroshee became ill and lost weight (she later learned that he was allergic to soy). So, with no other feeding options available, Effie was forced to buy expensive baby formula that the family couldn’t afford. “There were times when my husband and I wouldn’t eat, just so we could afford the milk for our baby,” she recalls.
Over the following months, Effie kept faith that Aeroshee would get the help he needed. That day finally came when a local hospital connected her with Smile Train’s local partner, the Maharlika Charity Foundation. Effie took a bus to the hospital, and the long-awaited surgery was scheduled.
A few short weeks later, Aeroshee received his cleft-lip surgery. Effie described the immediate effects: “He used to cry all the time, but, after his surgery, he became a happy baby.”
Then Aeroshee went on to receive a Smile Train-supported cleft palate surgery, which further improved his health and confidence.
A few years later, when Aeroshee started school, some of the children at school bullied him for the way he talked — he especially struggled to enunciate words in Bisaya, the conversational dialect in his neighbourhood and school.
Knowing her son needed help, Effie went once again to the Maharlika Charity Foundation, which taught her how to give speech treatments at home. The two practice speech in three languages (English, Filipino, and Bisaya) every day, with Effie monitoring Aeroshee’s diction and pronunciation.
Effie reports that her son’s speech has improved and that he tackles every challenge in his way. Today, Aeroshee is a friendly and outgoing young man who loves running around and pretending to be superheroes with his group of friends — living exactly the life that Effie dreamed of years ago.
If you would like to help us enable forever smiles and second chances at life for children like Aeroshee and help mothers like Effie provide a better life for their children, please make a gift today.