Changing lives, one smile at a time

When I walked into the ward first thing yesterday morning, I spied a pretty baby and wondered why I didn’t notice her yesterday.

I went over to say hi and to take a few photos.


Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


It wasn’t until after a few minutes that I realised this was Jannati, the baby I had watched in the operating room the day before.

I suppose she didn’t recognise me. She was veering between distressed and mellow, and didn’t want to play. Guess I wouldn’t be wanting to play right after I’ve had surgery, either.

Her physical transformation is quite amazing, is it not? She still has sutures on her lips but they don’t mar her prettiness. She’s going to be a real beauty once her skin heals and the scar fades!


Jannati before surgery:

Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


Jannati a day after surgery:

Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


Jannati’s grandmother looked really happy and peaceful sitting there with the little girl in her arms, rocking her soothingly when she frets.

She was allowed to discharge before lunch. I’m really happy for her but feel a bit sad that I may never see her again.

After visiting with Jannati, I went over to the Child Life Room.

In there, Michelle, the Child Life Specialist, was showing two boys pictures of the operating room and explaining to them (through an interpreter) that they’re going to be in that room in a while and that there’s nothing to be afraid of in the room.


Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


There are actual anesthesia masks on the floor which Michelle shortly picked up and showed the boys how to use.

“When you go into the room and you see this, you take it and put it over your nose like this, okay?”

She demonstrated blowing into the mask, inflating the balloon attached to the end of the tube. The boys were then given a chance to try it, as if it were a game.

The reason for this is to allow child patients to familiarise themselves with operating room equipment so that they don’t panic when they go in and someone cups a mask over them.


Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


Munna (on the right) struck me as very shy but eager to please. He smiled often and did what he was told but was afraid to look in your eyes and answer questions.

When I tried to speak to him through the interpreter, he answered in monosyllable and looked down, smiling shyly. Sometimes, he couldn’t even answer out of abject shyness, but he was okay with taking photographs.


Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


I discover from Munna’s mother that the 10-year-old boy is the same at school. He doesn’t talk much but he does well enough in his studies and his teachers like him.

He does have a few friends but most of the kids, especially the richer kids, avoid him because of his deformity.

Munna’s father is a farmer and they live in a village. Because the family is poor, his mother lives in the city to work as a seamstress. She hand-stitches traditional dresses such as the saree and the lehenga to pay the family bills, only going home once a week to visit her family.

Munna had to travel for four hours by ferry and bus to Dhaka to get to the hospital where Operation Smile is operating right now.

I asked him if there was anyone he wanted to show his new smile to, first thing. After much coaxing from the interpreter, we found out that Munna has a best friend named Alamin, and that he’s sure that Alamin will be able to recognise the new him right away.


Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


After our chat, I took out my iPad and let Munna play Zombie Smash HD. He loved it and wouldn’t stop playing it until it was time for his surgery.


Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


When he was told he had to go for surgery, he immediately handed the iPad back to me and obediently went with the surgical crew. What a good boy!

I held his hand and walked together with him into the operating room, accompanying him till he was put to sleep. He was very brave, stoically lying there and letting the O.R. nurses stick electrodes on him and put the mask over him.

Well, the O.R. nurses are really nice. They always speak soothingly and reassuringly to their patients and stroke them lovingly till they fall asleep.


Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


I will go see him again tomorrow and take some “after” shots of him if his plasters are removed by then.

While Munna was in surgery, I was hanging out at the doctors’ rest room, where our interpreter Malika was doing henna tattoos for anyone who wanted one. (Malika is a volunteer herself, from Bangladesh.)

Malika and me:


Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


She’s really talented! She did this for me:


Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


That was before the dried-up dye peeled off. Right now, it’s a light brown colour. I prefer it when it’s black, though.

Malika also did one for Justyn. At first she didn’t want to because she said henna is only for girls and she can only do feminine patterns. But I guess he finally managed to convince her.


Operation Smile Mission Dhaka


Oh, sorry, I forgot to take a picture of his finished tattoo!

Anyway, that’s all I have today. Sorry there won’t be a Justyn Olby Gallery. He fell ill last night (sore throat and fever) and had to go to bed early, so didn’t have time to process photos.

He’s accusing me of passing him the virus because I was having a sore throat during the weekend. But then the soreness cleared miraculously on Monday and I had no further symptoms of any virus, so maybe my sore throat was due to the haze and lack of sleep, and not a virus.

Well, who knows. Doesn’t matter, anyway. I hope he gets well soon or I’m gonna miss having someone to trade insults with.

If you want to see more pictures, the Student Chapter Facebook page always has more!

“Changing lives, one smile at a time” is the tagline for Operation Smile.

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