A New Beginning after a Lifetime of Pain and Stigma
Originally uploaded by interplast
Susan W. Hayes, Interplast president & CEO
I saw a woman, in her 40s, waiting in the waiting area. She had a surgical mask on her face, so I just assumed she had a cold, was being polite to others by wearing it (as is often the custom here in Asia) and was waiting for her child or grandchild during clinic.
But I was wrong.
With the help of a translator, Tim Smith, Interplast board member, and I went to talk to her. When Tim asked about her mask, she, Shu Zhi, told us that she always wears a mask because people impolitely stare at her whenever she does not. She had a very pronounced cleft lip---and had lived with the stigma and the mask, for 42 years.
Tim was very moved by her story and told her that she would never have to wear the mask again after her surgery on Thursday. Tim also shared with Shu Zhi his own personal story about how his own son, now 12, was born with a cleft lip and palate, although his clefts were repaired when he was a baby. He told her he realized how fortunate he was and how it did not seem fair that she had lived with a cleft her whole life. Tim also told Shu Zhi that he was very inspired by her bravery and how glad he was that she will now have a new future, one without the veil of shame she had endured for 42 years. "After Thursday, you will never have to wear that mask again" he said.