Father and Son

The image of Operation Smile has long been associated with children, young patients born with facial defects such as cleft lips and palates. However, in the journey of restoring smiles over the past three decades, we have also performed surgeries for many teenagers, adults, and especially the elderly. There have been numerous occasions where we performed surgeries for mother and child, grandparent and grandchild, siblings. In August 2023, we successfully treated a father and son from Thua Thien Hue province.

Towards the end of the screening day, when the number of patients had dwindled, our team examined a 6-year-old child who had previously undergone surgery for a cleft lip. Initially, everyone thought that the person bringing the child was his grandfather, as the man had gray hair, a weathered face, sad eyes, and a speech impediment that made him difficult to understand. The doctors asked further about the family’s situation and discovered that this was actually the boy’s father, who had also undergone cleft lip surgery more than ten years ago and still had a hole in his palate, affecting his speech. Upon learning this, the doctors created an additional medical record, provided thorough consultation, and proposed a surgery to complete the repair of the father’s lip. At the moment the family knew they would receive free surgery from these kind and attentive doctors, their eyes, previously filled with insecurity and looking down, lit up with joy, and for the first time, the father and son smiled.

On the day of the surgery, the father took his son into the operating room, waited with his wife, and also awaited his turn for surgery immediately after his son. The couple shared more about their story with us. They met when both were over 40. The wife ran a small store from home, and the husband worked as a mason. It was very difficult for them to have a son. When their son was born with a defect, they loved him dearly. The boy was very attached to his father, following him everywhere and clinging to him. The mother, gentle and soft-spoken, cared for both her husband and son. For them, their son, despite his defect, was the most beloved child, and no matter how hard it was, they would find a way to treat him.

Perhaps because he had experienced the difficulties caused by the defect himself, the father loved his son even more. When the son was brought out to the recovery room, the father held him, crying and saying, “Daddy’s here, daddy loves you, daddy loves you, don’t cry.” The doctors arranged for the father’s surgery to take place right next to his son’s room. His surgery was performed under local anesthesia. As soon as he regained consciousness, he went straight to his son’s room and embraced him.

Parental love does not distinguish between rich and poor, healthy or disabled. The two surgeries that day, to close the deformity in little Thang’s palate and to repair Mr. Phan Trien’s lip scar, helped to heal some of the emotional wounds of a 50-year-old man. After a long life of enduring hardships, he can now look forward to happier days ahead because both he and his son have been healed.