• In the Year of Giving, 186 staff volunteer their time as Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi hosts Operation Smile cleft palate surgery

Operation Smile, the charity committed to providing thousands of free operations to people suffering from cleft lips and palates, will come to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi at the end of July.

Up to 20 children and adults will receive transformative surgery from Operation Smile UAE at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi on July 28 and 29. The hospital will make two operating rooms available to the charity’s medical volunteers, along with food and other supplies.

After appealing for volunteers to assist with its first UAE mission, Operation Smile said that 186 staff from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi stepped forward, more than twice the number needed.

“From the first time we came to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, we were overwhelmed by the offers of help. It’s been really heartwarming,” said Morag Cromey-Hawke, executive director of Operation Smile in the UAE. “Everyone we came across from management downwards wanted to get involved to the extent that we have almost more support than we can use.”

The foundation Operation Smile UAE (OSUAE) was established in January 2011 under the patronage of HH Shaikha Aljazia Saif Mohd Al Nahyan, Wife of HH Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and works to provide cleft lip and cleft palate repair surgeries for children and adults all over the world. In addition to raising funds to perform the surgeries, OSUAE works to recruit medical volunteers and raise awareness about the condition.

While the foundation has supported operations around the world, this is the first time it has had access to the world-class facilities at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

“Often when we run an Operation Smile mission overseas, the facilities we get to use are quite basic and still the children and the parents are so grateful,” Ms Cromey-Hawke said. “Being able to use a facility like Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi for our mission will be an absolute dream for our patients and our volunteers. Here, patients will be able to have their own rooms where they can stay overnight with their parents or guardians, they will have access to some of the best medical facilities in the country and we know that the care they will be receiving will be absolutely top class.”

Every three minutes a child somewhere in the world is born with a cleft palate. In some countries, one in 10 will die before their first birthday. Many of the children who survive live their lives in shame, hiding their faces because of this tragic deformity.

Operation Smile was founded on the belief that no child should suffer or die because of a facial deformity. Internationally, since its founding in 1982, Operation Smile has provided more than 200,000 free surgeries to children and young adults around the world and over two million comprehensive healthcare evaluations.

Ann Williamson, Chief Clinical & Nursing Officer, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, said: “It is fitting that in the UAE Year of Giving, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has been able to assist Operation Smile in transforming people’s lives through surgery. We’ve been very pleased to see so many hard-working nurses and team-members from the hospital volunteer their time for this initiative.”

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi has spent months preparing to host the event and ensuring that Operation Smile patients receive the same outstanding levels of care as all other Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi patients. Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi volunteers participating in Operation Smile include: 21 Operating Room nurses, 32 nurses specializing in pre- and post-operative care, two surgeons, two anesthesia physicians, nine technicians and a number of non-clinical staff.