Matias is born on August 4, 2019 in the province of Ingavi, near lake Titicaca. He receives his first surgery, for his cleft lip, in February 2020 from our surgeon Dr. Mamani. Dr. Mamani is based in La Paz, where he heads one of our three projects in Bolivia. Just before the global Coronavirus lockdown puts a stop to all our surgeries the experienced pediatric surgeon closes Matias’ cleft lip.
Then life in Bolivia comes to a standstill for three months. In a country where almost half of the population lives in poverty, this has dramatic consequences for many. Matia’s father works as a day laborer on construction sites. Suddenly he can no longer earn money, can no longer feed his family. In addition, there is also the fear for his youngest son: Matias’ still needs his palate surgery. Dr. Mamani and his team had explained to the parents after the lip surgery how important it is that the palate is also closed in a second operation. But because of the pandemic, they at first have no idea when the surgery can be done. An untreated cleft palate causes many health problems, especially in small children. The children cannot breathe and swallow properly, so it is difficult for them to eat.
During this difficult time Nora, the psychologist of our Bolivian team, looks after the families. She is in regular contact with Matias parents by phone. In early June, she finally brings the long-awaited good news: Matias can have his surgery! The operation takes place under strict protective measures. Working under these conditions is hard work for the team: The new hygiene regulations are complex and take a lot of time. Still, everyone is happy that they can finally help the children again!
Matias’ second operation goes as well as the first. When he comes to aftercare a week later, Dr. Mamani is very satisfied. While still in his first year of life, Matias has both important surgical interventions behind him. He has recently also received speech therapy. This is very important for an optimal treatment result in children with cleft palate. Dr. Mamani follows this interdisciplinary approach with great conviction and persistence. We are happy for Matias and the many other cleft children in Bolivia we can give access to comprehensive therapy – for a good start into a new life.