Story written by Burma Children Medical Fund (BCMF)
Thin Thin Hlaing, now 13, was referred to Burma Children Medical Fund (BCMF) for treatment for a cleft lip and cleft palate. She has lived in a small village called San Thaung Htan in Shan State for her whole life. Her father works as a day laborer and her mother is a house wife. Her father works in a mine and earns around 6,000 kyat (6 USD) per day. However, her father is getting old now and he isn't able to work every day so Thin Thin Hlaing’s mother said she wasn't sure how much their monthly income is. She added that when her husband isn't able to work she cleans or washes clothes in her village to earn some extra income.
Thin Thin Hlaing's older brother also works as a miner, however he has a more senior position so he earns 80,000 kyat (80 USD) a month. He is not married and he still lives at home with their family so he is able to share his income with the rest of the family. Thin Thin Hlaing has just finished grade 5, and will continue grade 6 in June. Her favorite subject at school is English where she has lots of friends; she added that her favorite game to play is skipping with the other girls.
She was born at home with the help of a TBA and there were no problems during her delivery. Her mother said that she was very small when she was born so it was easy to give birth to her. When she was born her parents noticed her cleft lip and cleft palate. She couldn't breast feed and so she drank milk powder instead. Her mother said that when she was very young the milk would come out of her ear.
Her mother took her to a local clinic when she was five or six months old and the doctor explained that the mouth is connected to the ear. The doctor told her that Thin Thin Hlaing needed to have surgery to fix her congenital defect. However, her mother didn't know where to go to find such treatment or how she would be able to pay for it.
Since then she hasn't been able to find treatment for her daughter, as they live in a very remote village, even travelling to a hospital is a long expensive process. However, since Thin Thin Hlaing's brother graduated from school and started working, the family has had more money and so for the first time the family were able to afford travel. A neighbor told them to come to Mae Tao Clinic (MTC) to look for treatment, when they had saved up enough money to pay for the transportation, they made their way here.
Thin Thin Hlaing and her mother received information about Operation Smile so they travelled to Mae Sot for the screening on November 1st 2015. On the screening day Thin Thin Hlaing had a blood test and x-ray. After that they went to MTC's patient house, and they returned to Nakorn Mae Sot International Hospital on the 4th of November. The surgery was performed on 5th of November and took about four hours. Thin Thin Hlaing stayed at the hospital for three days after her surgery. She had pain after the surgery but was feeling happy. The first days she was not allowed to drink directly from a glass and had to use a straw. Her mother said that the doctors and the nurses were really kind and helpful. Through Operation Smile, they had translators all the time and her mother said that the staff explained everything they needed to know and she was very satisfied with the care her daughter received.
Thin Thin Hlaing and her mother are very happy that Thin Thin Hlaing received surgery. Prior to surgery she was very shy and didn't want to go to school. Now she feels beautiful and she thinks she look so different after the surgery, like a new person. In the future, Thin Thin Hlaing wants to become a teacher.
Her mother is very happy and thankful, because without this opportunity the family could never be able to afford the surgery. Her mother says; “I could never dream of this to happen, I thought that Thin Thin Hlaing would have her cleft lip for her whole life. Now we don't have to worry anymore and I am so happy that this chance has been given to us. Thank you so much!”