Dubai restores hope for Filipino baby with successful surgery to rectify cleft lip

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Antheia after the surgery to rectify her cleft lip — an opening in the upper lip. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai helped a Filipino baby, who was born with cleft lip and alveolus, with Al Jalila Foundation covering the expenses of a life-transforming surgery.

Antheia, born in December 2019, was diagnosed with cleft lip — an opening in the upper lip. Although her mother, Mary Christine Santos, had a very healthy pregnancy, took her vitamins, carried the baby to term and had no history for such a condition in the family, baby Antheia still developed the abnormality.

Regardless of the cleft lip, her parents were grateful that their daughter had no other health concerns that required any medication.

The doctor at the birth had recommended that baby Antheia should receive surgery three months old, but her parents were overwhelmed both by the cost of the surgery and by the restrictions in place that prevented screenings and operations of this nature due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

By the time Antheia was six months old, the unrepaired cleft lip was causing major health issues as food and saliva would drip down, and the competence of the lip muscle was compromised, thereby affecting the nose.

The mother, Santos, told Gulf News, that an operation was urgently needed so baby Antheia could continue to develop into a healthy young girl. “Before, because of the cleft lip, my baby always had colic and she also struggled sucking milk from the baby bottle. She was supposed to be operated in March or April last year, but it had to be called off because of the restrictions in place in view of COVID-19,” said Santos, who works as a graphic designer.

Antheia’s father, Ralph Gerard D. Villano, who works as a merchandiser, said they sought help from Al Jalila Foundation to help save their first child.

“We were able to raise some money, but it was not enough to cover the entire procedure. So we approached Al Jalila Foundation.”

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Antheia before the surgery. Image Credit: Supplied

The first operation of Antheia was done on July 21, 2020, at Al Jalila Children’s Specialty Hospital. “It was very successful and Antheia now has a more normal appearance with minimal scarring,” said the mother.

The entire medical bill, that had reached around Dh45,000, was paid for by Al Jalila Foundation. “We are very thankful to Al Jalila Foundation and to the doctors and nurses who took care of our baby. Also, heartfelt gratitude to Ekaterina Sivolobova, founder of Momory, a charity group that helps families in need. Antheia now is more active and she has a very sweet smile,” added the mother.

When she reaches nine or ten years, she will undergo one more surgery for gum and bone grafting.

Dr Abdulkareem Sultan Al Olama, CEO of Al Jalila Foundation, said they believe at the foundation that health is the cornerstone to happiness and every child deserves the opportunity to grow up healthy, dream and realise their potential.

“With the support of our partners and donors we are able to give hope to young patients like Antheia and help alleviate the financial burden on their families so that they can focus on the treatment plan and recovery,” said Al Olama.

“Nothing makes us happier than to experience the overwhelming joy of parents whose children’s lives are transformed after successful treatment. These are the precious moments that make our job at Al Jalila Foundation so rewarding.”

To date, Al Jalila Foundation has funded four patients with cleft lips, like baby Antheia, with a total assistance of Dh152,336. Through its paediatric programme Farah, Al Jalila Foundation has invested almost Dh39 million to support life-transforming treatment for 542 children.

What is Al Jalila Foundation?

Al Jalila Foundation, a global health-care philanthropic organisation dedicated to transforming lives, was founded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in April 2013, to position Dubai and the UAE at the forefront of medical innovation.

Al Jalila Foundation supports medical treatment for individuals unable to afford quality health care, provides scholarships to nurture a home-grown generation of medical professionals and supports ground-breaking research that addresses health challenges prevalent in the region, such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, obesity and mental health.

A’awen, ‘support’ in Arabic, is Al Jalila Foundation’s treatment support programme that provides financial and medical assistance to UAE-based patients in need. The program alleviates some of the financial burden of patients suffering from life-threatening illnesses, who are unable to afford quality health care.