Okay, it’s getting a bit heartbreaking here, getting attached to the kids and then having them go home the very next day, wondering if they’ll remember you, knowing you will miss them.
When our mission team arrived at the hospital at 7:20 yesterday morning, Munna was already awake, sitting silently on his bed together with his mother.
He was still painfully shy, looking bashfully away when I greeted him good morning and asked after him. Of course, he didn’t understand what I said, but I’m sure that’s not why he didn’t respond.
So I tried to break the ice by getting him to pose for a photo with me.
Then I gave him my camera and taught him how to take photos. I had to show him and guide his hands several times before he learnt that he can’t move the camera away before seeing the photo feedback on the monitor, or the picture will shift.
He got it after a while and gamely helped me take a picture with his mother.
And one of me.
But I knew he wanted nothing more than to play some Zombie Smash HD. After a while, he tired of taking photos and gave my camera back.
I went and took out my iPad. I could see his eyes light up when he saw the iPad, although his face remained impassive. I suppose it could be because it’s hard to make any facial expressions when you’ve got a big wound on your face.
After I started up the game for him, he eagerly took it and started playing.
His mum is really cute. She had very quickly picked up how the game worked when I showed it to Munna the day before, so she would occasionally help him pick up stars and power-ups when he got busy with the zombies.
She was full of joy the whole morning, smiling indulgently at Munna and gratefully at me. I know she was pleased that I was making an effort to befriend her son because she kept urging him to answer me or thank me or shake my hands or something.
I really wish I could speak their language.
Halfway through Munna’s game, a nurse came to remove his plaster and clean his wound.
How handsome he looks with his cleft gone!
I took a photo of him and showed it to him. He looked at it for two seconds, then went back to playing Zombie Smash. I guess video games are more important to boys than looks are.
Here’s the comparison!
Munna before surgery:
Munna a day after surgery:
The wound looks glossy because it’s got ointment on it and his lips are a bit puffy because of the swelling after a surgery. But I think he looks really good already. He will look even better in half a year or so.
All too soon, the time for discharging patients came.
There aren’t enough beds to keep them for more than a day, unless they’re really severe cases and need further monitoring. But patients are told to return to the hospital if they develop fever or something. I haven’t heard of that happening, though.
Munna gave me back my iPad without any fuss. He’s such a good boy it’s killing me that he’s had to suffer a facial deformity for the first 10 years of his life.
As the boy and his mother were about to leave, I gave him a hug and told him to be good (not that he needs that advice, but it’s just something you say to a kid, right, even one who doesn’t understand what you’re saying?)
I wished I had something to give him, a small memento, but I didn’t have anything suitable. I hadn’t come prepared enough for this trip because I didn’t know what to expect. Certainly not developing any attachments to any of them.
It took me by surprise.
At the final moment, just as Munna was about to disappear from my life forever, he turned around, looked me in the eye awkwardly and gave me a wave.
He still had the impassive look. But it was the first time he had initiated any direct communication with me, and I was amazingly touched.
Gah. This mission is just breaking my heart.
Anyway, I would like to thank all of you who have “liked” the Operation Smile Singapore Student Chapter Facebook page or have donated to the cause.
Your support is deeply appreciated, not just by me and the student volunteers, but also by all the children that Operation Smile has helped and will continue to help.
The smallest gesture on your part goes a long way. A child’s life could be transformed forever. Just like Munna’s life has now been transformed.
I think about him going to school now, all the kids who previously shunned him possibly all wanting to be his friend, maybe because he looks good now, maybe because he would be cool and special in their eyes having undergone surgery, and I feel such a burst of happiness for him that tears form in my eyes and fall freely down my cheeks.
Thank you, to all who have supported this cause one way or another.