On average, 35,000 to 40,000 cleft children are born each year in India. According to local cleft and craniofacial surgeons, that is not how many children are operated on annually. Santhosh Mathews, co-founder of Love Without Reason, roamed the streets of Bengaluru in the early years of his life. Over three decades, he only remembers meeting one child born with a cleft and having developmental delays. Where are the children? The work of Love Without Reason and the emphasis and value on these children's lives is essential now, more than ever.


No More Without a Name

Traditionally, the newborn baby would be given a name by her grandparents. When a little girl was born to farming parents in a rural village outside of Bengaluru, India, this tradition was not followed. Her grandfather saw the cleft lip and refused to give the child a name. Many of the family members followed suit and rejected the child.

In many cultures, the social stigma associated with a facial difference is traumatizing because of the lack of understanding and knowledge. Society's fear causes horrible reactions that leave these innocent children ostracized and humiliated.

Disregarding their own community's social norms, the tiny baby's parents held on to their daughter and loved her. They began to search for any way to understand what had happened and to find help for her.

After many months, the family was introduced to Love Without Reason founder Santhosh Mathews. The parents felt hope as he explained the simple surgical procedure to the family, especially the grandfather. Santhosh shared his own son's success story. Still, everything they heard seemed unimaginable for this family as they had never seen a surgery like this.

When the parents met with the surgical team in Bengaluru and prepared for their daughter's cleft lip surgery, they held onto hope. They could only trust that their little girl would be okay, and this would help.

The whole family went to the hospital to see her when this beautiful little girl was ready to come home. As Santhosh greeted the family in the ward, the grandfather turned to him with tears in his eyes. "We didn't know how beautiful she would be. We couldn't see her in the way that you saw her.”

That day this little girl's grandfather finally gave her a name. "She is so beautiful, and we will call her by the name Amulya.” Amulya means precious.


The 500th

In a village on Bengaluru's outskirts, a woman named Rizwana found herself in labor alone as her husband couldn't take off from his job. She was eager to hold her firstborn child. The moment that Rizwana looked down into her newborn son's little face, eagerness turned into loathing. This could not be her son.

Rizwana could not control her emotions. She was angry. She was in pain. She angrily asked God, "Why am I going through this pain? What wrong did my innocent baby do to deserve a face like this? " Baby Rehan was born with a bilateral cleft lip. Rizwana had never seen a child with a cleft and was dismayed. These questions tormented her for days. She felt hopeless and helpless and alone without her husband, Sher Ali Khan. People asked her questions, and she had no answers.

She felt like a failure, a failure to everyone. When Sher Ali Khan was finally able to see his new son, he struggled to comfort Rizwana. He felt, "As a father, all my dreams and hopes for my child were shattered when I saw his face."

The parents began to research the bilateral cleft lip. Relief swept over them as they learned that Rehan could be helped through surgery. Rizwana cradled her little son with love and dreamed of the day he could have surgery. The family understood that affording the needed surgery to repair their baby's cleft lip was probably impossible. This didn't stop them. They started to save from their daily wage jobs for Rehan's surgery. Even her grandmother contributed to the funds from her cigarette-making job. Despite their struggle, they felt discouraged and wondered if they could ever afford surgery to repair their baby's face.

Finally, someone told them about Love Without Reason and the free surgical care that baby Rehan could receive in Bengaluru . The family used their meager savings to travel to the city and meet with the chief craniofacial surgeon, Dr. Sathish. Overjoyed, Rehan was cleared for surgery, and the date was set.

Sher Ali Khan could not hide his anxiety, but he also held on to his son's dreams as Rehan was admitted for surgery. Rizwana and Sher Ali Khan entered the recovery room after a successful repair and were handed their little Rehan. Both parents were shocked again! The tears and the delight on their faces were genuine and heartfelt.

"Thank you, Love Without Reason, and Dr. Sathish, for our miracle. I could not even have imagined my Rehan would be like this. You saved our family when there was no one to help us."


Six Miscarriages in 20 years

Hazira and Riyaz have lived in Bangalore all their lives. They are the proud parents of their 20 year-old son, Khurnium. Khurnium and his father Riyaz both work as taxi drivers - known as auto rickshaw drivers in India.

Khurnium grew up alone in the house, he always wanted siblings. He watched as his mother went through six miscarriages over a span of twenty years of his life. He saw her grief and sorrow over each pregnancy loss. She desperately wanted to have another child, but due to her diabetes, she had miscarriages.

In 2019, when she thought all hope was lost, she became pregnant with another son. The family was overjoyed. Due to previous miscarriages, the obstetrician was more cautious and diligent to do all to protect the baby’s life. With the many tests and ultrasounds, the family was advised that their baby would have a cleft lip. However, nothing could take away their joy to have this child in their life. Due to Hazira’s health issues, baby Mounnadin was born four weeks early. He had many breathing issues and remained in NICU for two weeks. He was finally released home, but the parents struggled in thinking about the cleft lip repair. How could they afford the surgery? They spent all that they had for Mounnadin’s delivery and hospitalization.

Miraculously, the intensivists at Aster CMI hospital, a partnering hospital of Love Without Reason, introduced the parents to the Love Without Reason family. At the right time, Mounnadin had successful cleft lip repair, and the family rejoiced with chief craniomaxillofacial surgeon, Dr Sathish. Hazira said, “We cannot stop saying thanks to Dr. Sathish. He shared with us about Love WIthout Reason, and we are so thankful for the free surgery provided for our son. If we see any children with cleft lip or palate, we will be sure to introduce them to Love Without Reason.”

Khurnium too is overjoyed. “I can't wait to teach him how to drive, he grinned. There is so much joy in our house now. My mother will stop crying now, and our family will do everything to take care of our Mounnadin.”


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