Sharing knowhow and joining forces towards Health for All
Contribution to the Annual Report 2013 of the MMI Network

Happy End for Zine

Happy End for Zine

Zine is a little boy who came to Italy when he was only 7 months old. He lives in Iraq, born in a poor and humble family, which, as many other in Iraq, suffers the consequences of uncontrollable and negative historical events. When Zine’s mother was pregnant all the family components were very excited and involved in the joyous and happy preparation of the birth of the baby.

Unfortunately things did not develop according to the hopes of everyone. Zine was born with a severe malformation of the lip and the palate known as “cleft lip and palate”. His lips were open, as well as his palate, making his little face seriously disfigured. The opened palate prevented him from eating and drinking normally. Zine got sick very frequently, he was much more subject to develop infections than other children. He was much smaller than his same age boys. When he was 7 months old he did not seem to be even 4. In addition the cleft lip and palate were not the only his health problems, but just the most evident ones. Zine was also suffering from a severe heart disease, a congenital heart defect that made him risk his life every day. Zine was weak, too weak, his life was really hanging by a thread.

Seven months after his birth Zine came into contact with the reality of Emergenza Sorrisi, a non-governmental organization of volunteer doctors who performs reconstructive plastic surgery missions in the poorest countries of the world with the aim of operating children suffering from serious facial malformations, cancer, war traumas and burns. Emergenza Sorrisi is active since years in Iraq with an important project of health and surgical assistance which permitted to operate more than 800 children.

In December 2013 Emergenza Sorrisi started a project named “Settimana della solidarietà” (The Week of Solidarity) whose objective was to move to Italy particularly severe clinical cases that couldn’t be operated during surgical missions. The project was founded to offer a possibility to children with serious birth defects who couldn’t be operated in their countries. The aim of the project was to guarantee that 10 children, accompanied by a parent, would be undergoing a free surgery in Italy. The project provided the transfer to Italy of the patient and his companion, the organization of their arrival and their stay, the accommodation service that meets the standards of excellence, the free of charge surgical treatment and health care of the patients. In the course of an entire week these children were surgically operated in the hospitals of Rome, Bari and Naples. Together with the patients and their parents, also arrived in Italy 5 doctors who followed the activities of the project and participated in training course specifally organized for them in Italy.

Part of the patients involved came from Iraq, where local doctors have carried out an information campaign and the recruitment of patients with very serious malformations. Zine was one of the babies involved in this project. Of course his family was very happy for the possibility to give him hope for the a normal future and for not missing this opportunity the parents omitted to report to the association about another health problem that affected the boy: a serious heart disease.

That journey was too important, it was the only way to change Zine’s life. The concern was to admit the existence of another disease and thereby risk the possibility of leaving. The child's parents knew that he could not be operated on the face because of the cardiac malformation, but this was for them the trip of hope, the hope of providing a future for their Zine. Zine came in Italy with his grandmother. Immediately during the first medical examination our volunteer doctors became aware of the heart disease problem, which prevented the child to undergo the plastic surgery operation for the correction of lip and palate.

Suddenly many questions crossed the minds of our doctors. Was it possible to send Zine home without offering him any solution? Was it possible to permanently delete the hopes of a family? Not for Emergenza Sorrisi, it was impossible for us to be so rational. A way had to be found, we had to look for an alternative. And so was intensified the network of volunteer work, thousand of phone calls were made looking for a solution, and this solution arrived, unexpected and so much appreciated.

The solution came from Naples where Dr. Giampaolo Tartaro and Dr. Raffaele Rauso, involved in the “Settimana della Solidarietà” project, were already operating other little patients who came in Italy together with Zine. The story of this baby had strongly captivated the attention of the  two doctors and, thanks to them, another hospital could be involved in the project: the Monaldi Hospital in Naples with the cardiac surgery department directed by Dr. Caianello. Zine’s little heart was operated at the Monaldi Hospital, and this surgery saved his life, a life otherwise condemned to not seeing any future. The doctors operated the heart first and the lip in a second moment.

All the operations to which the child has been subjected were extremely delicate and risky but the smile, the life and the future of that child had become objectives that could not fail. Many hands and many hearts are needed to give a smile. Zine met willing hearts and generous hands, desirous to write the happy ending story of his life.

Contribution to the Annual Report 2013 of the MMI Network
More Information: www.emergenzasorrisi.it

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