Her bilateral cleft palate left her face severely disfigured. Haingo was almost seven months old and weighed a fragile 2.2kg (less than 5 lbs) when she was admitted with her mother Viviaby to the Africa Mercy ward. She immediately began the infant feeding program (IFP).
Every few hours – around the clock – Haingo was fed milk and supplements with an oral syringe by nurses who rocked her and prayed. Within days the tiny baby stopped her constant crying, she stopped frowning and her mother slept soundly for the first time in many months.
Little by little, the tide was turned and Haingo began to gain weight. Viviaby began to believe her precious daughter would survive. In 10 days Haingo’s health had stabilised enough for Viviaby to relocate to the Hospital Outpatients (HOPE) Centre and mother and daughter began frequent visits to the IFP dietitian.
Jillian helped Viviaby understand how to effectively feed her baby, and provided her with the supplies and equipment she needed. Haingo’s gradual weight gain was monitored and celebrated. Mother and baby relaxed into a nurturing environment.
Haingo began to reach her developmental milestones as her slowly growth progressed. Jillian and Viviaby worked together week after week, reaching towards twin goals. When Haingo weighed 3.5kg she would be strong enough to have surgery to restore her cleft lip, but she had to be ten months to have surgery to restore her palate.
The scales were tipping. Haingo’s steadily gained weight in the five months since her admission to Mercy Ships (weighing 2.2 kg at 6.5 months old). Her health blossomed. She began to sit up, sprouted teeth, started waving goodbye and played peek-a-boo. Each milestone was a gift to Viviaby, who had feared for her daughter’s life. The proud Malagasy mumma simply beamed when chubby Haingo hit the ‘normal weight for height’ milestone by Christmas. Haingo was thriving.
The day of Haingo’s cleft lip and palate surgery finally arrived. Viviaby glowed as she carried her daughter out of the recovery room after the operation. “She is beautiful!” was all Viviaby managed to say. She was overwhelmed at the complete transformation. “She doesn’t look like the same baby!”
The clefts that marred Haingo’s face are gone; however the truly life-changing difference is not easily seen. Haingo is hardly recognizable, and her life is full of promise.