Forty-five minutes is all the time it takes to help someone smile

Forty-five minutes is all the time it takes to help someone smile

Think of all the things that can be achieved in just 45 minutes. A quick Google search lists 30 things right off the bat, including a yoga class, a power nap, a spa treatment, or a good old-fashioned walk in the park. It also takes medical volunteers at Operation Smile South Africa (OSSA) as little as 45 minutes to help put a smile on someone’s proverbial dial.

OSSA is a non-profit medical service organisation that provides free cleft lip and palate reconstructive surgery and has – since 2006 – seen its medical volunteers provide over 6,000 free surgeries to children and adults throughout Southern and Central Africa.

The organisation believes that access to safe, effective and timeous surgical care is a basic human right, and that the inability to obtain surgical treatment for cleft conditions impacts lifelong health and mortality rates among children in South Africa and beyond. Those living with cleft conditions often suffer negative and stigmatic societal treatment resulting in emotional, social and economic costs which inadvertently extend to their families and communities.

OSSA has the ability to address this need directly by deploying missions across multiple sites in and around South Africa. And by means of a referral programme, the organisation identifies and refers patients to one of the nine existing cleft centres nationwide. The missions also supplement the national healthcare system by delivering much-needed care to the two provinces in South African that do not yet have established cleft centres.

“In 2019, OSSA together with the National Department of Health will be embarking on a pilot programme at the Witbank Provincial Hospital to assist in expanding the facility’s surgical services and offering non-surgical education and training programmes that cover Basic Life Support (BLS), Paediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) and Helping Babies Breathe (HBB),” explains Lauren Bright, Country Manager for Operation Smile South Africa.

The organisation’s involvement further extends into offering patients post-surgery support such as access to speech pathology experts, as well as dental and feeding and nutrition programmes. “Surgery only repairs the superficial,” adds Bright. “Rehabilitation post-surgery is vital in order for patients to re-establish their lives within their communities.”

“The word ‘surgery’ traditionally carries a lot of weigh; most-associated with exorbitant hospital and doctors’ costs, but in as little as 45 minutes and for just R5,500 one child can receive truly lifechanging reconstructive surgery,” concludes Bright.

Watch Enok’s story to see how Operation Smile helped change his life forever:

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