By Tim Saunders on
As reported by Look To The Stars last month, Chan spent an hour assisting in the surgery on Quy Thien Tran, a 6-month-old boy with a primary cleft. It was an experience Chan says will be with him for the rest of his life.
“From now on you must call me “Dr. Chan” because I helped with an actual surgery!" he wrote. "Actually, that’s not really true; I was mostly an observer. I held some gauze and watched as Dr. Magee did an operation that would change the life of a little 6 month-old boy. When the surgery began, Dr. Magee got right to work and I watched in amazement as he made a cut here, a cut there and sewed everything up in about an hour. Done! When the operation was over, a little boy whose face was disfigured and who could not eat properly was completely healed!
“After the surgery, I noticed that every muscle in my body was aching. I thought this was curious because I exercise regularly. But I felt tired in muscles I didn’t even know I had! I really admire the doctors and nurses who work in operating rooms; they have to stand for many hours, concentrating intensely and all the muscles in their bodies are put to use. Still, I am quite happy that I was able to observe the surgery.
“Just think how incredible it is that the life of a child can be changed dramatically in a period of 45 minutes. They can go from having a cleft lip and crooked nose to having a perfectly normal face like everyone else, the only exception being a small scar above the lip. The moment when the operation ended and I carried the baby out, I felt a sudden rush of emotions. When I slowly handed the baby back into his mother’s arms, I could see the heartfelt happiness in her eyes and the endless gratitude from her smile; tears rolled down her cheeks. She knew that from that day on, her son would be able drink milk without it leaking out of his cleft lip and he’d be able to speak clearly. And the most important thing is that he’ll be able to regain his dignity and self-respect.
“Congenital defects such as cleft lip or cleft palate in Vietnam are like a curse from the heavens above. When a baby with this kind of defect is born, the parents become very afraid so they either throw their baby in the garbage can, allowing fate to determine the baby’s destiny; or they lock them up inside the house, not allowing them to go outside and not allowing anyone to visit them. Even if a child does have the opportunity to attend class with other students or eat lunch together, no one is willing to sit opposite them; students will only sit alongside them because they don’t want to see the child eat and then see the child’s food dribble out from the cleft gap. Children make fun of them behind their backs.
“Basically, it only costs USD$210 to change a child’s life. If we don’t buy the latest mobile phone, buy one less designer item or sing one fewer song at KTV, we’ll be able to use this money to change the life of maybe one, ten, one hundred, or even thousands of children. This is such a simple thing to do. I believe that as long as there are people out there with compassionate hearts, these children can be helped.”
To read Jackie’s full blog, in which he talks at length about the good work Operation Smile carries out, visit his official website.
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