The Moodie Blog in India: Day 4 – A quiet miracle worker brings smiles to Hyderabad

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Some time this week, probably on Friday afternoon, a quietly spoken miracle worker will transform the life of a young Indian boy.

Both the boy and the miracle worker are well-known to readers of The Moodie Blog who followed our visit 13 months ago to Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad.

Nizam’s is famous for its cleft surgery unit, one that is funded largely by cleft charity The Smile Train – a charity that has attracted incredible support from the travel retail industry over the past 12 months.

When we last visited Hyderabad, the delightful (then) six-year-old boy Anji was about to have his serious cleft lip condition restored by the said miracle worker, Dr Mukunda Reddy, Professor and Head of Plastic Surgery at Nizam’s.

Alas, as revealed in an earlier Blog, Anji turned out to have a congenital heart defect and could not have his cleft operated on until the more serious condition was addressed.

Today, I returned to Nizam’s to pay a visit to Dr Reddy (pictured right). I was delighted to meet Anji and his young mother again and to hear that he will be operated on this week. Just like last year, the little fellow lit up the whole ward with a smile that never seems far from his face, no matter what life throws at him. Watch for his name in the Indian cricket team 20 years from now, a thought that makes him beam from ear to ear.

“He’s now fine and his life expectancy will be normal,” Dr Reddy says happily.

Anji’s story is just one of many – some of them almost unbearably poignant – that you hear as you do the rounds of the ward with Dr Mukunda Reddy.

Take a look at this brother (Shravan) and sister (Ramya) below, aged 11 and 7. Both were born with severe cleft lips and palates (“It’s not really that unusual to have the condition repeated in the family,” says Dr Reddy). Both were operated on by the Nizam’s team, thanks to help from The Smile Train. Both are now bright, vivacious kids with decent speech, helped by a Nizam’s speech therapy programme. The pre-operation pictures were profoundly different.

Dr Reddy likes to operate on a child before they are 18 months old (ideally under a year) as that minimises (and usually eliminates) the need for speech therapy.

Now meet young Khajabee (above), eight years old and another success story from Nizam’s. Born with a severe bi-laterial cleft lip and palate, she was immediately abandoned by both her parents (her mother has since died). Luckily she was taken in by her loving grandmother (above) and operated on in 2002.

Now, thanks to additional funding from Nizam’s and The Smile Train (to the tune of about US$300 a year) , she is receiving a proper education and her speech is continuing to improve. She’s a delightful, gracious and beautiful young girl. Funding of the sort that travel retail is generating made the transformation of her life possible.

Here’s Navneetha (below), now eight years old and operated on by Dr Reddy four years ago. Dr Reddy has called her in to check on her progress, particularly with speech. Look at her quiet dignity, lovely coquettish smile and obvious immense respect for this man.

There are miracles everywhere you look here. Look below at this poignant image of young Akshaya, aged 11 months, recovering in the post-op ward, after Dr Reddy’s hands worked their magic earlier today. These aren’t meant to be intrusive pictures (the parents and Dr Reddy wanted me to take them) but to underline how important and effective the travel retail industry’s support for The Smile Train is turning out to be.

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Dr Reddy said he is enormously touched and encouraged by the incredible levels of funding pouring in for The Smile Train from various sectors of the travel retail industry. With my own eyes today I saw what a difference that money, allied to the magnificent dedication and skill of Dr Reddy and his team, makes to the young, underprivileged children of India.

There have been others, so many others – every one a child whose life has been transformed.

There’s the beautifully named Laxmi Narasimha…

And little Vikky, who had a bad deformity of her nose as well as a cleft lip and palate – just look at her now with her proud Dad. “It’s god’s work what the donors are doing,” he tells Dr Reddy – a message I promise to pass on.

Here’s Shubum (below), who has just been operated on. “The swelling will come down in two days,” says Dr Reddy, “children recover very fast.”

And finally Rajesh (below), operated on 10 months ago and a bonny wee lad now. Cheeky too. Most importantly though, look at the love on his mother’s face.

Tonight I had the most pleasant of suppers with Dr Reddy and his son Puneet. Nizam’s is highly committed to quality aftercare of its patients, and The Moodie Report was delighted to donate US$10,000 to enable Dr Reddy to purchase a Nasendoscope – a sort of thin, flexible telescope that enables the medical team to assess palatal function post-operation. Until now its usage had to be outsourced.

Over a glass of Indian ‘Sula’ Sauvignon Blanc, I asked Dr Reddy what impact the fund-raising efforts of the travel retail community (via The Smile Train) has made to his day-to-day work. He replied: “It has made a huge difference. This funding helps create good centres [of cleft care]. I will ensure it is put to good use.”

No-one would doubt it.

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