Patients as young as six months underwent the procedure Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: As many as 15 children and young adults, who suffered from cleft lip and cleft palate conditions, have undergone free life-changing procedures, thanks to the ‘Operation Smile’ surgical programme.

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, a Mubadala Health partner, as part of their ongoing partnership with Operation Smile UAE, hosted the programme in performing the procedures on patients from six months of age and upwards.

The surgeries took place in November at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, where operating rooms and facilities were available to perform the procedures and for patients to recover. The hospital’s clinical teams, including anaesthesiologists, physicians, nurses, and support staff volunteered their time and resources so that these patients could benefit from world-class surgical procedures organised by the Operation Smile UAE medical team.

Cleft surgery only takes an hour in some cases but its benefit is life-long, doctors say Image Credit: Supplied

The partnership with Operation Smile UAE is a result of Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s dedication to enhancing community access to high-quality care closer to home and improving the quality of life for people with these specific facial irregularities.

What is Operation Smile?
Operation Smile was founded in 1982 to provide free and safe treatment for children and young adults worldwide who were born with cleft lip and cleft palate. The Operation Smile UAE chapter was established in January 2011 by Sheikha Alyazia bint Saif Al Nahyan. Although it began as a fundraising, awareness and medical volunteer recruitment effort, it developed with the assistance of the Department of Health — Abu Dhabi, to include providing procedures for patients within the UAE, in 2017.

Dr Jorge A. Guzman, CEO, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said: “This initiative is in keeping with our corporate social responsibility to support our community and work with charitable groups like Operation Smile UAE. Because we have the appropriate infrastructure, volunteers, and medical teams to make a major difference, we at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi believe it is our responsibility to undertake these life-changing surgeries for as many children and young people in the UAE, as possible.”

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‘Better future’

Dr Mahdi Shkoukani, department chair of Otolaryngology, specialising in head and neck surgery, Surgical Subspecialties Institute at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said: “This condition has a number of negative effects, in addition to a social stigma. Children with clefts are more likely to experience speech difficulties and hearing impairments, as well as dental issues such as cavities and missing, deformed, or misplaced teeth. As a physician and fellow human, I am honoured to be given this opportunity to help these young faces have a better future.”

Morag Cromey-Hawke, the executive director of Operation Smile UAE, said: “A child’s life can be radically changed by cleft surgery, which can take less than an hour. We depend on the generous support of partners like Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi to enable us to assist the maximum number of children and young adults to obtain the appropriate and safe care for their facial anomalies. We are extremely fortunate to have access to excellent medical volunteers throughout the UAE, top-class healthcare resources, and well-equipped facilities, thanks to hospitals such as Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.”