Joel Lifo – First Albanian patient

We have been contacted by Mr.Mark Stoscher, Director of Torchbearers, non-profit organization based in Albania with information about a boy born with cleft lip and palate. Mr. Stoscher was referred to us by Smile train and was asking for help in terms of the surgery treatment.

We exchanged couple of e-mails with Mr. Stoscher giving him detailed information about our surgical protocol, the possible dates of the first surgery – the reconstruction of the lip and the cost of the surgery. We had to take in account some facts that would complicate the situation with their visit to Bulgaria – the long distance from their home, Gjonce. The village they come from is in the middle of the mountain far from Tirana, the capital of Albania. They had to travel through Macedonia before reaching Bulgaria and Plovdiv. It is a 9 hours’ drive through the mountains and with a three months old baby, it is not easy at all. We had to be sure the baby is healthy so this entire journey would not be in vain. Mr. Eric Gundy from Torchbearers organization accompanied the family in order to help with the translation from Albanian to English and to make the communication with the family possible.

As we planned to operate the baby on Monday 16th of April the baby had to be present at the hospital on Sunday and to have a pediatrician’s checkup. The family left for Bulgaria on Saturday and arrived safely in Plovdiv.

I would like to mention that the first time I meet the parents they were frightened, insecure and anxious. I tried to calm them down but it was not possible. In a language environment they did not understand a word, they looked really stressed, especially the day of the operation. The operation itself went very well, there were no complications and on the next day, for the first, time I saw a smile on the mother’s face.

We asked the family why they have chosen to treat the baby in Bulgaria despite all these complicating circumstances. They said this treatment would cost a lot of money to them in Albania and they would not receive such a complete care and attention. I believe this is true and we are really glad to be able to help children with clefts even outside Bulgaria. And all this thanks to the substantial help we are receiving from Smile train.


Jana Angelova

Chairman of Association ALA

Pictures taken before and after the surgery: