AL AIN // Four-month-old baby Ibrahim is a step closer to a full, healthy smile – thanks to help from the UAE community.
Ibrahim returned home with a repaired lip after surgery in Kenya, where he was sent for the procedure following an appeal by his family, who are from Syria, in The National's weekly Helping Hands column.
Al Ain’s Oasis Hospital reached out to the family after they called for help to pay for their son’s cleft palate to be repaired. He was sent to Oasis’s sister hospital in Kenya last week for the first stage of the repair. The entire cost of the trip and operation was paid for by Oasis Hospital.
“We are beyond happy,” said Ibrahim’s father, Maher.
“We would have never imagined this that my son would not only have the operation on time, but by a team of doctors who were beyond excellent.”
UAE hospitals had previously told the family that it would cost at least Dh60,000 to repair the boy’s lip, nose and soft palate – a price too high for Ibrahim’s family.
“There was no way we could afford it, even if we borrowed money from every single person we know,” said Maher, adding that the figure quoted was the minimum and did not include medication.
The family flew to Kenya on Sunday March 6 with a team from Oasis Hospital. The surgery to repair Ibrahim’s lip was performed the following Monday and lasted about two hours. They returned to the UAE on Thursday.
“As soon as we arrived, the doctors were waiting for us,” Maher said. “They performed the surgery early the next morning, and what shocked me and my wife was not only how amazing they were, but how they treated my baby as if he was their own son.”
Trey Hulsey, president of Oasis Hospital, said it was the second time the hospital had sent a Syrian child to Kenya for surgery.
Oasis Hospital is part of Cure, a non-profit group that operates charitable hospitals and programmes in 30 countries.
The Cure hospital in Kenya opened in 1998 and has since provided more than 204,000 surgeries and trained more than 7,200 medical staff, serving children with conditions such as cleft lips, clubfoot and hydrocephalus.
“We are incredibly happy that we can continue Oasis’s long tradition of helping others by taking Ibrahim to our sister Cure hospital in Kenya,” Mr Hulsey said.
“We know that what makes Oasis Hospital special is our desire to serve others in need. We love being part of the UAE community and love that we get to make other people’s lives better.”
The hospital, however, is appealing for donations to help cover the costs of future surgeries that Ibrahim will need to repair his hard and soft palates.
“We will take Ibrahim back for palate surgery in March of 2017 and would love help fundraising for that trip when it is time,” Mr Hulsey said.
Maher said that as soon as they arrived, Mr Hulsey carried Ibrahim “and took him everywhere, and took care of everything”.
“After the operation, Ibrahim was crying a lot, and the whole team was trying to make him feel better and to soothe him,” Maher said. Despite knowing there will be future procedures, the family are content for the time being with celebrating their son’s recovery.
“Yes, I know he needs more surgeries,” Maher said. “Repairing the hard and soft palate will be more challenging, but for now, we just want to enjoy this.
“Finally, no one is staring at my baby boy like he’s a monster. He has already recovered so well and changes day by day.”