Kushi Bhalkikar is 15 months old. She is a joy to be around as she never stops laughing. Her Mum, Sonali, explains that this is the second time she has seen the Northern Cleft Foundation in Aurangabad.
She knew that her baby had a cleft defect because it was picked up antenatally on ultrasound scan. When Kushi was born in 2013 she weighed just 2kg.
Kushi could not be breast feed because of her large cleft palate. Milk would be regurgitated through her nose and she did not start to gain weight until her Mum began spooning milk in to her.
Shortly after her baby girl’s birth she read about the proposed visit of the NCF to Aurangabad. A telephone number linked her to one of the ENT doctors at Hedgewar hospital who was responsible for co-ordinating prospective patients prior to the Foundation’s arrival.
She travelled the 100km from her home for an initial assessment and returned a month later when the NCF arrived and Kushi had her first surgery.
Sonali describes how anxious she felt at the time of the operation and how delighted she was with the result. “When I look at her, I cannot believe it is the same baby” she says, beaming.
“The charity does tremendous work because, without them, people would not be able to get operations for their babies. No one goes away disappointed. Their faces express their happiness when they walk away from the hospital”.
It was explained that Kushi was too small to have her lip and palate repaired at the same time so Mum and daughter have returned this year for a further operation.
For the first time speech therapists are part of the NCF team; Kushi has been assessed by them and her Mum will be advised how best to encourage her little girl’s speech to develop normally.
Palate repair gives a child the potential to articulate better but the older the child when first seen, the more likely it is that bad speech habits have become engrained – Kushi is lucky as her cleft correction has happened at an ideal time.
Her future will be brighter because of her surgery.