Muaz: More Than a Surgery, a Sacred Duty

A cleft mom’s unforgettable testimony

Olanike holding Muaz and kissing him on the head

Olanike lives in Lagos, Nigeria with her husband and two-year-old son, Muaz, who was unexpectedly born with a cleft. We caught up with her earlier this year to check up on Muaz and listen to her story. Here it is, in her own words.

Because Muaz was my first experience having a child, I was a bit scared and nervous when I saw his cleft.

His was not the first cleft we have seen. I have an uncle whose friend has such a case and it wasn't healed. In fact, we have seen a few such cases, and never have they been treated.

So I was scared for my child before, and I became even more afraid when I first tried to feed him. Every time I put him to my breast, the milk would pour out from his mouth or drip out from his nose. I worried he would never be able to eat and prayed and prayed that we would not lose him.

Well, Muaz and I were asked to go to a general hospital shortly after I gave birth to him, and a nurse there said she had heard about an organization that could provide free treatment for him. She Googled local Smile Train partners and directed us to Grandville Medical and Laser Centre.

Olanike holding Muaz during a consultation at Grandville Medical and Laser Centre
Olanike speaking with Dr. Aranmolate Rasheed at Grandville Medical and Laser Centre before Muaz’s cleft surgery

I was grateful to her for helping us and we went to the hospital right away. This was a kind of a first experience for us — I had never experienced any form of surgery before, so when I learned they were going to carry out a surgery on him, I was very, very scared because I thought it was going to be terrifying. I don't know how to describe the feeling exactly, but I was very, very afraid and nervous. But the hospital staff earned my trust and they showed me pictures of other children that reassured me that the surgery would be safe and that my son would come out of it smiling and healthy.

All thanks to God and the team at Grandville! When I saw Muaz after surgery, I was very, very happy. They really tried for us, and I'm so, so grateful. I pray God will continue to bless them.

Olanike kissing Muaz’s hand after his cleft surgery
Olanike and Muaz sharing a moment of joy after Muaz’s cleft surgery

Our neighbors and friends were very surprised when we came home from surgery. This was just like a kind of miracle to them, too — that he was healed and, no less, that there weren't any complications after the procedure.

Muaz with crumbs on his face
Muaz enjoying a snack, now that he can

The difference in Muaz before and after his surgery cannot be quantified. Now he can feed very well, he can chew perfectly, and he even talks very well. Yes, he stuttered before, even as a baby, but now you can hear the difference. He pronounces things correctly.

Now that I have been helped, I consider it my duty to help others. I’ve already directed another woman who had a baby with a cleft to go down to Grandville as fast as she could, and I hope I will be blessed to help others, too. My advice to anyone who has a child with a cleft is to go to the hospital quickly because the best thing is to treat it while they are young, before they get older and their issues with feeding and speaking become worse.

Olanike holding Muaz and smiling
A future surgeon and his proud mother

Muaz is only 14 months old, but I would like it if he would grow up to become a surgeon so that he can emulate those people who carried out that surgery on him, so that he can as well help people the way he was helped. As I said, it is a sacred duty.

I also want to say a very big thank you to Smile Train’s donors. I don't know them, but God knows them. I pray God will continue to bless them, favor them, and show His mercies upon them.

You can make a global impact and save the life of a baby in need today.