Recruiting patients all around the block

Okay so I can't sleep without sharing what happened this evening!! Two of the other volunteers and I were out walking home from getting some groceries. We're three peas in a pod: an American, A Colombian and a Kiwi (New Zealand!) One of the girls needed milk and we had made it all the way home but the two little shops outside our place were out of milk. We back tracked to this little shop run by a girl in her mid-twenties, I had bought milk from her earlier in the day. The other girls made their purchases and on the way out one stopped to look at some bindi's. The shop owner re-started a conversation with her friend that was there and went about her business.

I stood outside and heard her speak and remembered how I had heard her speak only once before and momentarily thought "She sounds like she has a cleft palate." The first time I thought it was over 6 weeks ago and the thought was fleeting. As am I standing there one of the volunteers comes to me and exclaims: "She sounds like she has a palate, eh?!" She affirmed just what I had been pondering! I had worried that maybe I was walking around thinking everyone around me could be a potential patient. It's like when you buy a new car and all of a sudden you notice that car everywhere, I figured I had been assuming too much but my co-worker confirmed my suspicion!

We walked to the flat and I said that I had to get one of the Hindi/Assamese speaking doctors to come back with me to talk to her. We didn't know for sure about her palate unless we looked at and I definitely didn't want to invade her privacy and not even be able to explain myself. I walked right up to the female anesthetists' room and told her what had happened, grabbed my flash light and off we went to talk to the shop owner. We asked her about her palate, explaining that I had recognized her speech pattern. Then sure enough we look inside her mouth and there is a posterior cleft! We told her about our cleft care center, what we do, when/how to come in and wrote down our numbers. She had the hugest grin on her face but asked that we call her parents and explain to them when she got home. I obviously left the anesthetist to do that but I can't believe it!

I really hope that her parents will be as excited as she was and that she gets her surgery as early as next week on our mission! It is a hugely controversial area when it comes to repairing adult cleft palates regarding wether it improves the patient's quality of life. After having a palate repaired as an adult, speech therapy is essential in order to actually improve speech which is usually the reason the patient wants the repair. Many of our patients live hours and hours away in the tea districts and though we have a full time speech therapist, they don't receive the post-surgical therapy that would enhance their outcome. This young woman has THE most potential of any adult palate repair that I have taken care of in regards to improving her quality of life. The hospital and access to our speech therapist is only a 15 minute walk away. Plus, she'd be getting my business consistently for the rest of the time I'm here so that's a plus :)

I am just so excited and can't believe that we stumbled upon her. Here's to hoping she is able to have surgery!


  1. yay! i'm so happy to see your recent updates! i'm so excited that you're doing well and loving all the parts of living in india. thinking about you always!

  2. well done you :) you're doing so much good there x