Healing a Son, and a Mum, in Egypt

31 August 2020 | Smile Train

Ahmed and Eman were shocked when they saw their firstborn baby, Malek, for the first time — they had never seen a child with a cleft before. For the first few days after Malek’s birth, Eman’s fears that she would never be able to provide her son with the care he needed so overwhelmed her that she avoided him. But, thankfully, motherly instinct soon took over and carried her to the nursery, where she provided Malek all the love, compassion, and support she possibly could.

Malek before cleft surgery

Breastfeeding was difficult at first. Malek needed to be fed through a tube to take in any nutrition, and Eman’s feelings of inadequacy returned.

With lots of love and support from her and Ahmad’s extended families, however, they were able to get Malek to gain weight. And the heavier he got, the more Eman began to enjoy her time with him — she even took to photographing him many times a day to document his progress.

Malek with his father, Ahmed

But through it all, rumours she had heard about the terrible things that happened to children with clefts swirled in her mind, haunting her. She needed to get outside her head, so she started looking for help online.

Dr Allam holds Malek

Her searches led her to Dr Karam Allam, a surgeon at Smile Train partner Misr Hospital in nearby Sohag, Egypt. Dr Allam explained the facts about clefts to Eman and Ahmed, reassuring them Malek’s cleft was not their fault and that hundreds of thousands of other babies are born with clefts all around the world each year. He worked with them to create a specialised schedule for giving Malek the surgeries he would need at just the right time for him, then revealed that all of this care would be provided for free thanks to an organisation called Smile Train and its generous donors.

With that one sentence, the cloud hanging over Eman’s head burst into a rainbow of possibilities for Malek’s future.

Malek with his mother, Eman

Malek received his cleft lip surgery as promised at age four months and is scheduled to undergo his first cleft palate surgery soon, once he’s big enough for it.

While Malek still has a long treatment journey ahead of him, Eman is finally sleeping peacefully at night, assured that her son will receive the highest quality of care at the exact time he needs it.

Malek and his parents

“Our entire family is grateful beyond words to Misr Hospital and Smile Train, and especially to Smile Train’s donors for the kindness you have shown us,” Eman said.

Malek before and after cleft surgery


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