After Surgery, the Teasing and Name Calling Stopped

Patient Stories
Posted 2/6/2015

Sidonie is a beautiful girl from Antananarivo, Madagascar, but lived with a cleft lip until she was 7 years old. When Sidonie was born, her parents were shocked when they saw her cleft lip. Her mother was so shocked that she cried for days. Sidonie’s paternal grandfather was also born with a cleft lip, but her parents never thought one of their kids would be born with this condition.

Sidonie’s mother, Harimino, is a house wife and a brick maker, and Sidonie’s father, Jean Patrick, is a construction worker. At Sidonie’s first doctor’s visit, Harimino learned that her daughter’s cleft lip could be repaired through surgery. However, Sidonie’s parents had no idea how they could afford to feed their family of six and save money for the surgery.

As a child, Sidonie was a healthy girl, but she was constantly teased by the other kids. The kids at school and in her neighborhood used to call her, “Sima” which means “Cleftie,” a name that she hated.

In 2011, Harimino heard on the radio that Operation Smile was coming to Antananarivo. She couldn’t believe that the surgery was free, so she decided this was going to be Sidonie’s chance to be like all the other little girls. Upon arriving at the hospital, Harimino and Sidonie were amazed to see so many other children like Sidonie who were born with cleft lip. After a comprehensive medical evaluation, both Sidonie and her mother were overjoyed when she was scheduled for surgery.

When Sidonie’s mother first saw her precious daughter after the surgery, she experienced mixed emotions. She was happy that Sidonie’s lip was finally repaired but sad that Sidonie’s new face looked so strange to her.

During vacations and breaks from school, Sidonie helps her mom at the brickmaking factory and loves to play with her sister and best friend, Safi. At the time of her surgery, Sidonie was on vacation from school and was completely recovered by the time she went back to school. Sidonie got to start a new year and a new life with no teasing or name calling. Today, Sidonie is in the fifth grade. She loves school, and her favorite subject is math.