Thirty-year-old Sam Hoiy never dreamed her son would have the opportunity to live a life without the cleft lip that has always marred his otherwise delicate features.
“I was really disappointed with my son’s [lip] when he was first born, but tomorrow my son’s lip will change and he will have a nice smile forever,” she said, gazing at his face outside the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital yesterday.
Hoiy’s seven-month-old son is one of more than 100 Cambodians being treated and screened by a team of national and international experts working for the surgical NGO Operation Smile. The two-day screening that began on Sunday marks the official opening of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship hospital’s cleft surgery clinic, David Fruitman, secretary of Operation Smile’s board of directors, said.
“Today was an important day with his Excellency Hun Manet in attendance as well as the Minister of Health [Mam Bunheng]. We were planning on providing screening for one day but so many patients arrived that we conducted a second day of screenings with a team of national and international doctors,” Fruitman said.
The clinic is offering free operations to children and young adults for the treatment of cleft lips, which involve a split in a child’s upper lip, cleft palates, which originate in the roof of the mouth, and other facial deformities.
Surgeries began on March 31 and will continue until April 4. So far, 114 patients have been screened, with 21 procedures taking place yesterday.
Ngy Meng, director of the hospital, said yesterday that some $160,000 was spent on building and repairing four new surgery rooms located on the third floor of the hospital, with funds donated by Manet, the eldest son of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Since Operation Smile Cambodia’s first mission in 2002, volunteer medical experts have performed approximately 3,300 free surgeries throughout more than 10 provinces.