For 62 years Chantou hid her face.
Shunned by her community, Chantou spent the majority of her life alone and socially isolated.
Born into one of the poorest communities in northern Cambodia, she suffered from the cleft palate that left her face deformed. Unable to attend school, she lived most of her life as a farmer on her family’s land and never married.
Growing up in a resource-poor community, the lack of consistent healthcare her entire life meant there were no treatment options. There was never enough money. Her parents struggled. The pain they felt not being able to help their daughter was unbearable.
For six decades, Chantou waited for God to answer her prayers.
In 2016, she discovered a surgical camp run by Surgical Volunteers International who perform life-changing surgeries in the remotest regions of the world. Chantou strongly believes the Lord led her to this mission team.
Her journey from home to the camp took more than four hours. At Chantou’s first appointment, she shared her life of isolation with the medical mission team carrying sutures and other health supplies from MAP International. She told them what joy it was in finding doctors who could help her.
At 62, she overcame her fear and desperately wanted surgery. God was answering her prayers.
Dr. Cara Downey, a plastic surgeon from Houston, Texas, who helped perform the surgery, shared this with us:
We performed the procedure successfully without complications thanks to the generous donations of supplies from MAP. On our last trip in 2019, she visited our camp again. She greeted our team with pure elation. Her demeanor was quite more outgoing and confident than the year past.”
After her first reconstructive surgery was performed, she returned for a second procedure to correct the deformity that the cleft caused her nose using a portion of her rib. Again, her operation was successful.
It’s hard to imagine waiting 62 years for surgery to fix what, for many people in the US, is corrected in childhood. The medicines provided by MAP – analgesics, antibiotics, topical creams – enabled life-changing surgery for a woman who had waited patiently for decades.
And, like a beautiful flower blooming in the light of dawn, a new face and a new life were born.
Will you help MAP provide medicines and health supplies to more people worldwide so they too can live life to the fullest? As you enjoy your summer, remember that disease never takes a vacation. Millions are relying on MAP for life-changing medicines.
Editor’s Note: The name ‘Chantou’ means flower. It is a common name given to baby girls at their birth in Cambodia. The medical mission report we received did not record the patient’s name. MAP staff substituted the name Chantou to provide poetic context for this true story.