The veteran surgeon saving India's children
68. Lip Service
Dr. Hirji Adenwalla has devoted his life to improving the lives of children born with cleft palates But he is now advanced in years and needs a successor to step into his shoes if, that is, one can be found. LISA BACON reports from Kerala.
On a sweltering Wednesday evening in March, rickshaws clatter through the front gates of Jubilee Mission Hospital to discharge passengers and pick up more. Villagers and visitors mill noisily about. Some have come for medical attention. Others have received it and are in the process of leaving. Over honking horns and loud chatter, the wails and cries of children blend into a cacophony that echoes in the crowded courtyard.
For nearly half a century, Dr. Hirji Adenwalla has gone to sleep each night and awakened each day to the same sounds. Since 1960, he and his wife Gurnal have lived in a small cottage on the hospital grounds in Trichur, a town of 275,000 in Kerala, southern India. As head of the hospital's Charles Pinto Centre for Cleft Lip and Palate, Adenwalla has changed the lives of thousands of children with birth deformities that, in countries such as India, all too often doom a child to a life of poverty and isolation. . .
Women in saris share single beds with their babies. One mother lies beneath a bed with her small child, comfortable in the knowledge that her baby will not fall. . .
After some clipping and slicing, the child's nose and mouth have disappeared, replaced by what looks like a smashed tomato. With the eyes of a hawk and the hands of a harpist, Adenwalla reconstructs a new face, one that will be as pretty as it is functional. As he knots off the final stitches at the end of the three-hour surgery, he hums Harry Belafonte's "Jamaican Farewell." . . . .