Noorjahan - Bangladesh
Noorjahan is a 22 year old woman, the eldest of three girls in her family, living in rural Bangladesh. She was born with a severe facial cleft (split in the skin) starting in her upper lip, extending through her cheek and into an empty eye socket.
Because of Noorjahan's appearance, she and her family have been shunned by their community; she never went to school, rarely left her families’ modest home, and kept her face covered.
Despite being turned away again and again by local professionals and international teams, Noorjahan and her parents traveled to Rangpur Medical College in November 2011 after hearing that Children’s Surgery International would be there for one week, hopeful that this time they may be offered help. Imagine how difficult this must of been, wondering if Noorjahan would be turned away yet again, facing the stares, and experiencing the shame that accompanied leaving home.
When the family arrived at the Rangpur Medical College, the CSI team had already seen all the waiting patients, and had set the busy surgical schedule for the week. The local staff approached the team, asking if they would please consider evaluating just one more patient.
This time, Noorjahan and her family would meet Dr. Kofi Boahene and the CSI team. After careful examination and health evaluation, Dr. Boahene said "of course, we will take care of you". The team knew that the procedure would require more time and resources than the cleft lip procedures planned for the week, but Noorjahan’s situation was special. It was important that she be given the chance to lead a life her family had yet only dreamed of for her.
Noorjahan and her family were shocked to actually be finally accepted for surgery, and were amazed that after just a couple of hours in the operating room her appearance had changed so dramatically. They would travel home later that week, with renewed hope for the Noorjahan's future. Her mother promised to pray for Dr. Boahene daily for the rest of her life.
Captivated by the story, the local Rangpur news team traveled to Noorjahan's home village a couple of months later. There they found a family with renewed hope. Noorjahan had healed well, and was much more engaged with her family and community. Her mother said: "They performed the surgery, and my daughter now looks so beautiful. Now three sisters enjoy their time together. She is smiles a lot, and is willing to meet people. What can I say....for as long as I live, I will pray to Allah five times a day for them (CSI team). This is the greatest gift that I could have received."
The CSI surgical team was able to evaluate Noorjahan on their second trip to Bangladesh. Unfortunately, at that time there were medical concerns that precluded her from having the second procedure. Hopefully, when the CSI team returns to Bangladesh in 2015, they will be able to continue Noorjahan's care.