July is the month chosen to bring awareness to the plight of thousands of people in the United States, and millions around the world, suffering from cleft and craniofacial disfigurement. During July many national, state, regional, and local groups, as well as doctors, hospitals, and support groups are bonding together, and through this concentrated effort promote awareness, and acceptance, of those afflicted.
Most people associate cleft and craniofacial deformities with small children, and while some cases are congenital, or birth related, others caused by accidents, burns, or disease. Many severe war injuries also require extensive correctional work over many months, or even years. Although some cases are cosmetic, others are severe enough to cause difficulty when eating and swallowing. The emotional scars and distress can be overwhelming, even to an adult, and so much more to a small child.
Local support groups help the family work through the distress and pain of having a child, or sibling, so afflicted. These groups often work year round, bringing awareness of local needs, and raising funds for the medical treatment required. Without these local groups many families would be suffering alone, feeling like they are the only ones in this situation.
Patients of all types ignore one item that could mean life and death in an emergency, a medical alert bracelet or necklace. In many emergency cases, the person is unable to provide vital information to the attending staff. Medical identity jewelry is often the only information the hospital has to go on.
Moreover, for those of us not affected as a family, or in a personal way, should make an effort to react in a positive way when we come across these people. They suffer enough without our stares and shocked expressions, sometimes even being treated as a freak, and not as a human being. Let us be the ones to become a little more human, and smile, not in pity, but compassion.