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05 Mar 2024, Edition - 3157, Tuesday

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Free cleft treatment by Madurai hospital brings back smiles

Harsha V.H


Ten-year-old Janani is a familiar face to TV viewers as a participant in Airtel Super Singer Junior 2014 and Sun Singer 2016. So it comes as a surprise that till she was four, Janani was unable to speak.

“We were dejected when we found out that our daughter was unable to speak. One of our family friends informed us that it was a cleft palate deformity and it can be rectified only through surgery. I got really worried whether I could afford the surgery; being a temple priest I earned only Rs. 4,000 per month. I was relieved when my friend told me that Meenakshi Mission Hospital, Madurai gives free treatment for cleft patients,” says S Ramachandran, Janani’s father.

He adds, “Not only did they perform the surgery, afterwards she was given speech therapy regularly, which too was free.”

Janani is one of the 10,531 fortunate people who has been treated for cleft palate free of cost by Meenakshi Mission, which started the noble cause in 2003.

Talking about the initiative, P Sundar Raj, Senior Manager – R&D at the hospital, says, “One out of 1,000 children are born with cleft lip or cleft palate in India every year. The worst part is that the deformity is surrounded by myths and misconceptions in our country. People still think it is a curse or bad luck. We have witnessed a lot of family problems like suicide, separation and abandoned cases because of this deformity.

We wanted to make people aware that it is completely curable and we decided to operate for free for those who aren’t able to afford surgery.”

The actual cost per surgery is around Rs. 50,000 – 56,000. Smile Train Organisation, USA sponsors Rs. 18,000 per surgery. The remaining is borne by the hospital. The operation takes about 45 minutes depending upon the child’s condition and the child takes around 5 to 7 days to recover.

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