Cleft Palate: Born as a Monster or a Curable Deformity?
The moon gleams luminously down on the clearing, revealing a small village that appears to be whittled out of the jungle. On the outermost edge of a cluster of small buildings there sits a hut, all of its windows lit by firelight. All of a sudden a fierce squalling cry pierces the quiet night. The mother lying inside the hut breathes out a sigh of relief as she wipes her sweaty brow. After all these months, her baby has finally made his way into the world. She reaches out and grabs a hold of her newborn son, bringing him up to her so she can see his tiny face. As she looks down on him, a whimper of dismay escapes her. It’s a monster! Surely this horrifying creature cannot be her baby! His face seems to be split from the lower lip up; he looks like he is snarling at her. As she watches, he utters another loud cry. The ghastly tissue where his cherubic mouth should be flaps wildly. Her heart sinks in grief as she realizes that all her pain has been for naught. This monster cannot be allowed to live. They will have to dispose of him.
All around the globe, scenes like this play out in small villages or towns where education (to them) means they have learned how to hunt, gather supplies, or to build their home. Many people believe that the poor children born with cleft palate are monsters; they don’t understand that cleft palate is a legitimate genetic disorder, and that it can be easily corrected with a simple surgery. Today there are many efforts being put forth by doctors all over the world to help educate people about cleft palate, so they can banish the long standing superstitions about the disorder. There are also non-profit organizations working to provide the necessary surgeries for these children; to help the families who cannot afford the surgery on their own. It is important to educate people about the genetic reasons for cleft palate, the surgeries that can fix it, and the ability of the affected person to live a normal life after the surgery is finished, in order to help people understand the disorder and thereby banish primitive superstitions surrounding it.
Understanding what the cleft palate is, and what causes it is the first step to bringing about understanding and eliminating archaic misconceptions. The CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recently estimated that each year 2,651 babies in the United States are born with a cleft palate and 4,437 babies are born with a cleft lip (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/CleftLip.html, para. 3). This number applies solely to the United States, so you can imagine how many children around the world are affected each year. Roughly one in one thousand babies born are born with cleft palate/lip each year (http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/cleftLipPalate.cfm, para. 4). The anomaly affects mostly males, Asians, and American Indians (http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/cleftLipPalate.cfm, para. 4). It is...