The days fly by and we are almost reaching the end of the surgical part of this mission. One of the cases is a 17 year old young man, Moshoraf. He has a cleft lip and has never been operated before. Usually, cleft lips are reconstructed during the first year after a child is born. We talk with Moshoraf to find out why did not have reconstruction earlier.
“My parents took me to see a doctor when I was 3 years old, but the doctor said to wait with the surgery. Our family is very poor and could not pay for it. I did not have any options until I hear about this ship.” Mosharaf explains that the cleft lip luckily did not influence his life in a very negative way. He did not experience any big issues and was not neglected by his family. He is the only one in the family with a cleft. We learned that men with cleft lips are much not stigmatized in Bangladesh. For women, however, it is harder to marry if they have a cleft lip. He is, however, very happy to undergo surgery.
Mosharaf does not go to school. Due to the poverty of his family, there was no money for school books and he stopped going to school when he was 11 years old. His father passed away a couple of years ago, and Mosharaf has been working in a brick factory since he left school. This way he supports his family of five brothers and one sister. The whole family lives together in a village about 5 kilometers away from the ship. Mosharaf has a wife; they got married when he was fifteen. “We got married out of love. There are no children yet, that is something for the future.”
At the hospital ship, we mainly operate two types of patients: burn contractures and cleft lip/palate. Burns form a very large problem in Bangladesh. The number of burns of the whole country not known exactly, but in the academic hospital in Dhaka approximately 20.000 burn patients are seen each year. Due to low manpower, poverty, inaccessibility and many other factors, a lot of patients are not treated in the acute phase, which can result in severe contractures.
A few examples of burn contractures are shown below with permission from the patients.