A few days ago, I visited the local government-funded hospital in Davao with midwives from here. Sometimes there is a need to transfer women from our birth center to the hospital, if serious complications arise, so it is important to know the location and layout of the hospital. While there, we visited the entrances and part of the wards of obstetric emergency admissions, NICU, labor and delivery, normal postpartum, and the ill newborn center.
As I walked through, I prayed inwardly for the women and babies that I saw, for their needs and their recovery. In postpartum, which was one huge room crowded with many beds, side by side, I noticed one woman who was recovering from cesarean. The newborn baby who lay on the bed near her had a cleft palate.
My brother Andrew, a saxophone player, is especially passionate about providing cleft palate surgeries to children around the world. I thought of him, and the Smile Train ministry, as I prayed silently for this little baby. I wondered if the baby I saw would get to have this healing surgery—and how soon. I wondered how this baby would live or breastfeed.
As we were leaving, I asked a midwife, who was with me, how much it costs to have a cleft palate surgery here. She didn’t know. But she encouraged me by saying that our birth center had partnered with doctors who come here periodically to do surgeries to repair cleft palate – free of charge to families with few resources.
Later, another midwife told me that some Filipino families believe that cleft palate is caused when the baby is sucking on his thumb in utero and his mother, riding public transportation, is jostled and bounced roughly along the city streets. This kind of misinformation reminded me briefly of Uganda. There I once saw poster I saw announced that epilepsy is not caused by witchcraft – an announcement that had to be made to counteract a prevalent, but incorrect, belief. There is plenty of misinformation about health and disease in the States, too, for that matter. But although the exact causes of cleft palate are unknown, the condition appears to be caused by genetic factors, environmental teratogens or perhaps certain medications taken during pregnancy.
Please pray with me for this little baby with cleft palate. Even though I may never see this newborn or the mother again, God sees them. He can bring to them whatever they need.