The gift of a smile

10-year-old Hamza was born with achondroplasia dwarfism and needed a series of surgeries in order for him to be able to breathe on his own, starting with a tracheostomy when he was 2 years old. “He wasn’t able to breathe properly when he slept, he kept tossing and turning during the night,” says his mom, Farhana.

Then last year, thanks to the Smile Foundation, Hamza underwent an 8 hour-long midface distraction surgery which was the first of the surgeries that would enable him to finally breath without the help of the tracheostomy.  During the surgery they cut his skin from just in front of his ear across his skull to the other side and pulled the skin from his face to get to the bone underneath.

“The surgery was quite expensive because they had to import the titanium distracters from overseas”, says Farhana, “It’s really amazing what the Foundation does for these children”.

The Smile Foundation helps underprivileged children and babies who were born with cleft lip or palate and sometimes both. Others are burn victims and children who have been born with facial deformities. At  the Red Cross Memorial Children’s hospital they run a Smile Week, where 25 surgeries are performed in the one week, bringing smiles to children who need them.

Hamza was one of those children and  had a 3 month recovery period while still wearing the distracters that had to be tightened every day, a painful process. Hamza still has some way to go on his journey. He still has to see the orthodontist about some braces which will fix his teeth to make breathing easier for him. Then his tracheostomy can be removed and he can go on to live a normal life.

He’s been through a lot both physically and emotionally but he doesn’t let it get him down. He is still going strong and is a wonderfully upbeat child whose smile just instantly endears him to you. When I mention that I love the name Hamza, because it was my late father-in-law’s name, his mother agrees and smiles as she says, “Yes, it’s a strong name.” It means Lion in Arabic.

For more information or if you know anyone in need of help from the Smile Foundation you can contact them on or 0861ASMILE.

Was your child born with a cleft lip? How did your family deal with it?

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