Anulagi is a three-year-old boy who lives with his family in Apia, Samoa.

An Interplast surgical team recently visited Apia and operated on 46 patients in collaboration with local partner Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital. Interplast has worked in Samoa since our inception in 1983 and we run training and surgical visits each year to the island country.

Interplast volunteer surgeon Damian Marucci explained that Anulagi was born with a unilateral cleft lip.

A cleft lip is a gap in the upper lip. If it is on one side it is a unilateral cleft lip, if on both sides, bilateral. To repair the cleft lip, the plastic and reconstructive surgeon makes an incision on each side of the cleft lip to the nostril. The two sides of the lip are then stitched together by rearranging the surrounding tissue. In addition to closing the lip, the repair includes realigning the muscle of the upper lip to provide normal lip function and facilitate sucking.

Anulagi is a bright young boy and full of energy, but his cleft lip was starting to affect his speech and he was becoming aware of his difference to other children.

Before the surgery both Anulagi and his mother were understandably nervous. Associate Professor Marucci was able to comfort them using the words of Samoan that he has learnt over the years of Interplast programs.

Associate Professor Marucci repaired the cleft lip alongside the local surgical registrar Dr Junior Posini. Anulagi’s surgery was a resounding success and his mother is incredibly happy with the surgery result. She is happy that Anulagi will now be able to have a similar future to his friends and siblings.

This surgical program was supported by the Rotary Club of Mornington and the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons through the Pacific Island Program.

Photo: Anulagi is pictured with his mother and Associate Professor Damian Marucci (left).

Postscript: Our thoughts are with our local partners and colleagues during the current measles outbreak.