When Things Got Tough, Tsiorihasina’s Mom Got Tougher

Nothing could stop this mom from getting her daughter the treatment she needed

Tsiorihasina smiling after cleft surgery

When Tsiorihasina was born with a cleft, her mother was in shock. She felt lost trying to find Tsiorihasina affordable cleft care. Thankfully, they found Smile Train just in time. Here’s her story in her own words.

The day my daughter Tsiorihasina was born was nothing like I expected.

After a difficult birth, all I wanted to do was hold my baby. I could hardly wait, but she was rushed out of the room before I even saw her. When the doctor came back empty-handed, my heart fell to the floor. What had happened to my daughter?

The words the doctor said to me completely shook me: “Your daughter was born with a cleft lip.”

Tsiorihasina smiling before cleft surgery
Tsiorihasina before cleft surgery

It was impossible to hide my confusion. I had three ultrasounds and they all showed that Tsiorihasina was perfectly healthy.

I couldn’t believe it was true until I saw her.

I’ll admit, seeing her cleft made me sad more than anything. It broke my heart imagining the kind of life she would lead. People could be cruel, and I never wanted my daughter to suffer. I promised myself then and there that no matter what, I would support Tsiorihasina as best I could.

Tsiorihasina before cleft surgery standing between her parents
Tsiorihasina’s parents will never leave her side

Even though the doctor told us her condition was treatable with a cleft lip surgery, those first few days with Tsiorihasina at home were unbelievably stressful. My husband had headaches for three days straight!

Even though my husband and I were ready to do anything for Tsiorihasina, reactions from our families were very mixed. Some relatives didn’t want to associate with us anymore. They thought Tsiorihasina was born with a cleft because of some past harm we must have done. Having family believe such cruel superstitions felt like betrayal.

Tsiorihasina before cleft surgery, flanked by her sister and brother
No matter what other families would say, Tsiorihasina’s siblings always had her back!

Thankfully, not everyone felt the same. Many relatives were highly encouraging and supportive of Tsiorihasina’s journey towards treatment and even helped us with our search for care.

After we brought Tsiorihasina home, we immediately began looking for cleft surgery options. No matter where we turned, getting her the care she needed was expensive. Our public hospital offered free cleft surgeries, but even then, the various treatments and medications she needed would be costly. My sister took her search to a place we hadn’t even thought to look: Facebook.

She had seen a photo of a child who had cleft surgery sponsored by Smile Train, and the results were unbelievable. The idea that Tsiorihasina could grow up with hardly a scar where her cleft was lit a fire under us all. After more research, we discovered that Sante Plus Hospital in Antsirabe is a Smile Train partner and could provide Tsiorihasina with surgery, and any other cleft care she needed, all for free.

Tsiorihasina shoulders-up after cleft surgery laughing at the camera
Today, Tsiorihasina can hardly keep herself from smiling

Within minutes, our appointment was booked. We all knew we had found our solution.

Tsiorihasina was a month old at her first appointment at Sante Plus. I was surprised by how smoothly everything went. The staff were very attentive towards all of us. They educated my husband and I on everything we needed to do to prepare Tsiorihasina for her surgery.

Three months later, we had our next appointment. Unfortunately, the staff told us that Tsiorihasina wasn’t ready. We’d need to wait another three months. Even worse, COVID-19 hit Madagascar then and sent us into quarantine, meaning her surgery had to be pushed back even further. The wait was agonizing, but truly worth it.

Tsiorihasina standing outside in front of her mom
For Tsiorihasina and her mother, patience paid off. Just look at the results!

On the big day, I was filled with all sorts of anxieties. All the tests beforehand showed that Tsiorihasina was in perfect condition for the surgery, but I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something that they missed. I worried Tsiorihasina wouldn’t be able to get her treatment and we’d have to wait even longer. But when I saw Tsiorihasina enter the operating room, I knew everything would be okay. When she was in the hands of Smile Train’s partner surgeons, I had nothing to fear.

Seeing Tsiorihasina’s little face wrapped in bandages afterward was heart-wrenching. Undergoing surgery at all is a scary thing, and she was only a year old. I was prepared for her to be scared and confused, crying for help. But as soon as she saw me, her eyes lit up. The smile she gave me was the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen. Finally, my baby was healed!

Tsiorihasina after cleft surgery being held by her mother, holding her face
Tsiorihasina’s favorite place to be is in her mother’s arms

Now, Tsiorihasina is on track for a life of joy. She loves to run around and play with her older siblings. Every time she smiles, I can’t help but smile too.

Tsorihasina running down a white hallway after her cleft surgery
After her cleft lip surgery, Tsiorihasina is unstoppable!

It’s so important that families like ours find Smile Train. Without them, we wouldn’t have been able to afford her surgery. The generosity of Smile Train’s donors changed Tsiorihasina’s life, and mine too.

Thank you, Smile Train.

Your generosity can change the lives of cleft-affected families all over the world.