Scenes of Healing: Koforidua Medical Mission


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Serepoure, 4 years old, puts on her surgical gown with the help of her father, Vurenye, in the pre-operative ward on the first day of surgery at Eastern Regional Hospital during Operation Smile's medical mission to Koforidua, Ghana, in November 2017. Serepoure and Vurenye live in a remote village in Ghana's Northern Region — a 14-hour bus ride to the medical mission site in Koforidua. The family had planned to utilise the free bus service provided by Operation Smile Ghana, but they arrived at the meet up site after the bus had already departed. Determined to make sure his daughter received free cleft lip surgery from Operation Smile, Vurenye made the necessary arrangements to make it to the mission site. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.

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One-year-old Portia plays with her mother in the child life area before her life-changing cleft lip surgery. The surgical environment can seem frightening to young patients, so before they're brought into the operating room for surgery, they engage in therapeutic play with their caregivers, child life specialists and student volunteers to help ease their anxieties. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.

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Paediatrician Dr. Shelly Batra of the United States examines a patient one last time before his journey to the operating room. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.


Nurse anaesthetist Bernice Afotey carries 4-month-old Daniel to the operation room on the medical mission’s first day of surgery. When Daniel’s mother, Elizabeth, gave birth to her son, her mother immediately told her to get rid of the baby, as she believed that Daniel’s cleft lip was the result of a supernatural curse. Elizabeth refused vehemently. “I would never allow my baby to be taken away,” the 19-year-old mother said. When Daniel was 1 week old, Elizabeth took him to the hospital to see if there was anything the doctors could do to help. It was then she learned that Daniel's cleft could be repaired by surgery, but it would cost more than her or her family could ever afford. Fortunately, Elizabeth was connected with Operation Smile Ghana just two weeks before the mission. After receiving a comprehensive medical evaluation by Operation Smile medical volunteers, Daniel was deemed healthy enough to safely receive surgery. “I was so excited and happy to know that, at long last, my baby will have surgery,” Elizabeth said. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.

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Cleft surgeon Dr. Malin Hakelius of Sweden and surgical resident Dr. Charles Kwame Asiedu of Ghana perform surgery during Operation Smile's medical mission to Koforidua. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.

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Cleft surgeon Dr. Opoku Ampomah of Ghana, the medical mission’s team leader, focuses as he performs the life-changing cleft lip surgery of 10-month-old patient Christiana. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.


Anaesthesiologist Dr. Clive Duke of the United Kingdom carries Daniel from the operating room to the recovery room after surgery. Daniel was one of the 147 Ghanaians who received surgery during the medical mission. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.


After a procedure that took little more than 45 minutes to perform, Daniel’s mother, Elizabeth, smiles as she is reunited with her son in the post-operative ward at Eastern Regional Hospital. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.

One-year-old Jephat and his happy mother get some much-needed rest in the post-operative ward. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.

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After her successful cleft lip surgery, Serepoure plays with her father, Vurenye, at the patient shelter. Before Vurenye arrived to the medical mission, he had always thought his family was the only one with a child affected by cleft. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.


After the medical mission’s final day of surgery, the patient shelter erupted into a chorus of celebration and thanks. Led by Operation Smile Ghana volunteer Emmanuel Amass Amankwah, patients and their caregivers sing a joyous song over the rhythm of drums. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.


Medical volunteers came to the patient shelter to join in the celebration with patients and their caregivers, who offered Operation Smile team their heartfelt thanks after a successful week of surgery at Eastern Regional Hospital in Koforidua. Anaesthesia resident Dr. Emma Addae of Ghana poses with a young patient as the celebration is underway. Photo: Zute Lightfoot.

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“Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.”

- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-founder and President