They Held Mustafa Close, Then They Embraced Him

How Smile Train helped one family move from shock to smiles

Mustafa with his parents before cleft surgery

For Nagla and Mohamed, life was perfect. They were the proud parents of three healthy girls and made just enough to provide them all with good educations and a stable life. Then Nagla discovered she was pregnant again.

The news was a shock, but a happy one, and when Mohamed learned the baby would be a boy, he wanted to shout his joy for all to hear.

The pregnancy proceeded as the couple had come to expect, right up until Nagla was taken into the operating room… and stayed there.

And stayed there.

Mohamed got a bad feeling; his family’s faces in the sterile, overbright waiting room made clear he was not alone. As the minutes fell away, his terror ticked up. No one spoke so as not to tempt the evil eye. Time slogged on. Minutes came to feel like hours. The family stopped even looking at one another.

Then a doctor’s head poked out. “Where is the father of this child?”

Mohamed ran to him.

“Your son was born with a cleft, but it can be treated nowadays.”

Mohamed opened his mouth to respond, but no words would come.

“It’s going to be okay,” he said. “It can be cured.”


Now the words came. Mohamed thanked the doctor and prayed that his child would be healed. He gave his family the update, then added a special request for his father: “Please tell Nagla about the baby’s condition. I can’t tell her myself.”

Mustafa before cleft surgery

“I was so confused, really stressed, and couldn’t figure out what to do,” he later recalled.

Once out of the OR, Nagla was excited to finally meet her baby and asked the staff to bring him to her. Her mother came in holding him, and even in her post-surgical haze, she noticed something odd about how close to her chest she held him. Then her father-in-law entered and told her the news.

She asked her mother to keep holding her baby. In that moment, she couldn’t bear to.

Once home, she and Mohamed sat down to discuss what to do. Mohamed was still in a state of shock, but he couldn’t handle seeing Nagla looking so upset, and his son needed him. He put on his bravest face and promised he would do his best to find little Mustafa the help he needed.

Mohamed left his town and took to the streets of Giza in search of a doctor who could treat his son. He wandered into Kids Hospital, where he met Dr. Mamdouh Aboul Hassan.


Dr. Aboul Hassan greeted the family warmly and explained that, thanks to Kids Hospital’s partnership with Smile Train, Mustafa would receive the world-class, comprehensive cleft care he needed — all for free. He then took them on a tour of the cleft clinic to meet the other specialists who would become Mustafa’s second family as he grew — including the nutritionist, orthodontist, speech therapist, and ear, nose, and throat doctor.

Mustafa in surgery
Mustafa in surgery

Mohamed, Nagla, and their whole family were overjoyed; their prayers had been answered. But Mustafa could not safely receive his first cleft surgery until he was three months old. For the next 90 days, it was Nagla’s turn to hold Mustafa as close as she could. She feared what the neighbors would say about his cleft so kept him inside and out of sight as much as possible.

Nagla praying
Nagla praying while Mustafa undergoes surgery

When the big day came, Nagla and Mohamed were nervous but now there was no terror, no unexpected wait. Just handing their baby over to a doctor they trusted and, about an hour later, their first glimpse at a swollen, stitched up, miraculous smile they would never forget.

Nagla kissing Mustafa after his cleft surgery
Nagla kissing Mustafa a few months after his cleft surgery

“Thanks to God, for today I am not worried about my son, and I will show him to everyone,” said Mohamed.

Mustafa with his family after cleft surgery
Dr. Mamdouh Aboul Hassan (far right) with Nagla, Mohamed, Mustafa, and the family’s three daughters, as one of them holds a picture of Mustafa before cleft surgery

“Thank you, Smile Train,” said Nagla.