Jomatt's path to recovery


U-Voice student volunteer Ellie McDonald shares the story of Jomatt, a patient who received cleft surgery at Operation Smile medical mission in Cebu, February 2018.

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Ellie McDonald playing with a child before surgery in Cebu

The week spent in Cebu was more than anything I could have imagined. It has changed my perspective on life.

Having had time to reflect on it all, the story of one child really stood out to me - Jomatt - a 7-month old little boy who was born with a cleft lip. I was lucky enough to spend some time with him and his Mum, Lucia, in pre-op where we played with a balloon and bubbles – soothing any nerves before his surgery. During this time, I was able to chat with Lucia, who had a caring and concerned nature. She shared their story with me.


Ellie and Jomatt playing at Operation Smile medical mission

Lucia was so worried for Jomatt when he was born, as she knew that his future would be full of uncertainty and that he might not be accepted by society. 
She did not understand what had caused her son’s cleft lip and had blamed herself. I felt so grateful to be able to comfort her by explaining the true causes of cleft conditions and that it was through no fault of her own that her baby had been born this way.
When I visited Lucia and Jomatt the next morning after surgery, Jomatt himself was even more excitable than he had been the day before, with a wider grin across his face and even deeper dimples. As they left, Lucia thanked me for all I had done. She was grateful to me, even though I felt I had done so little.

Jomatt and Lucia are just one example of the many families I met who treated us with the utmost respect. It was humbling to be so greatly appreciated for sharing our limited knowledge and to be part of such an inspirational team. Spending time with the people of Cebu has made me realise how privileged we all are here in the UK and how important it is to use our position to be the voice of those who will not be heard otherwise. As the young people of our world, it is our responsibility to make it a better place for the next generation in whatever way that may be.

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Jomatt before and after his life-changing surgery

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“Every child that has a facial deformity is our responsibility. If we don’t take care of that child, there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.”

- Kathy Magee, Operation Smile Co-founder and President