By Oketade Ifeoluwa
Up until now, parents, patients and clinicians alike have been perturbed on how to totally rehabilitate a cleft palate patient who had already developed a speech defect due to the clefting of the palate. Mothers and fathers complained of how their children were been mocked in school and ostracized from the community members. The case of Akindele joseph, a cleft palate patient with incomprehensible speech, is amazing as the mother claimed the local vendors have always refused to sell to the boy as a sign of stigmatisation despite having money for the purchase. What’s more! there is the dead dearth of specialist and knowledge of speech therapy among practitioners. One of the maxillofacial clinicians once sent a patient to a “speech therapist” and all the so called speech therapist did was to give the patient an electronic toothbrush and told her to blow balloons, which is far from any method capable of producing a result.
Dr. Seidu Bello, a maxillofacial surgeon and the Director Cleft and Facial Deformity Foundation, CFDF, in his tireless quest to find a solution to this speech defect and hence put a lasting smile on the faces of the patients, set up a speech therapy centre. This comprises of a team of doctors and nurses that were sent for trainings sponsored by Smile Train and Leaders Project, two American based institutions which care for patients with cleft lip, palate and speech defects. Now the speech therapy centre is functional and the pathfinding effect is becoming palpable.
The first of our patients, Davina Ugah, a 5yr old girl commenced treatment on February 14 and was quickly followed by four other patients. Prof Cate Crowley, the director of Leaders Project and a foremost speech pathologist visited our facility and was highly impressed with the infrastructure as well as progress recorded with our pioneer patients. She certified the centre as competent and fit to take up this pathfinding and pacesetting task of improving speech for Nigerians with speech defects secondary to cleft palate. Following her visit, we had a spike in our patient attendance, as even government hospitals began to refer patients to the centre.
Within 8 months of establishing the centre, the testimonies have been thrilling and humbling. The visit of the Vice President and Regional director for Africa of SmileTrain, Dr. Esther Njoroge, to our facility on 5th July, 2018 provided another opportunity for self-assessment. “The dramatic improvement of her speech looks like magic to me” Father of Fountain Kachidi, one of the parents said. When asked for her personal testimony, Fountain Kachidi could not hide her joy when she joyfully stated “My speech has greatly improved, I am grateful”. Mr Peterkas saw the improvement of speech from the perspective of stigmatisation. He spoke about how his daughter could now run errands without any harassment from community members as used to be the case before she began the speech therapy sessions at CFDF. The African Director of SmileTrain, Dr. Esther was also so impressed with our facility, our team and dramatic progress of patients treatment, she promised that her organisation will do their best to encourage our good work.
Another giant stride by our centre is the development of a prototype speech therapy curriculum for the Yoruba speaking tribe. This work is ongoing and Prof. Crowley of LeadersProject has been a great inspiration to the progress of the work.
Indeed the CLEFT AND FACIAL DEFORMITY FOUNDATION, has become a pathfinder and a pacesetter worthy of emulation for others who desire the progress of humanity to follow.
Meet the PATHFINDERS:
- Seidu Bello, founder and director CLEFT AND FACIAL DEFORMITY FOUNDATION
- Nurse Yemi Balogun, HEAD SPEECH THERAPY TEAM
- Ifeoluwa Oketade, CLINICIAN AND SPEECH THERAPIST
- Abiodun Adebayo, CLINICIAN AND SPEECH THERAPIST
- Nnena obi, SPEECH THERAPIST.