Chattanooga couple providing free cleft surgeries for kids in Ea - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Chattanooga couple providing free cleft surgeries for kids in East Africa

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

One Chattanooga couple is setting out to help those born with cleft lip and cleft palate worldwide. 

Santosh and Susan Mathews plan to travel with volunteers, family members and five surgeons to Zimbabwe to perform 60 surgeries in six days. 

The mission trip is through their non-profit, Love Without Reason, which aims to connect surgeons to children with cleft lips and cleft palates in parts of Southern India, where the couple's family is from. 

Since 2007, the organization has hosted 45 medical camps and orchestrated 300 surgeries. 

"Most people in India and Africa have no idea that such a surgery can be performed. All they know is that we were born with a child that's a curse," Santosh said. "There's a five-year backlog for children who have facial deformities. They only have about two facial surgeons in the entire nation of Zimbabwe, so they're overwhelmed."

The couple started Love Without Reason after the birth of their first-born son, Philip, who was born with cleft lip and cleft palate. 

But Susan explained concerns regarding Philip's health started before he was born. 

"The doctor said the life-threatening issue was that they could not find Philip's stomach and because of that he would be born dead. he wouldn't have been ready to breathe on his own because they thought his stomach was trapped in his lungs," Susan said. "The best advice the doctor said was you need to end the pregnancy now."

Susan said she and her husband refused to give up and ignored the doctor's advice. 

"We went back to the doctor for the final report and again he asked us are you ready to end of pregnancy and we told him no we wanted to keep our baby," said Susan. 

Philip survived, despite also having holes in his heart, which eventually closed. 

"God had other plans and God's report is what always stands," said Susan. 

Philip has survived 23 surgeries as the heels of his 17th birthday in July.  

"I think it's a really cool experience. It's been challenging and I have gone through a lot. I just want to encourage others," said Philip. 

Philip said he's looking forward to traveling to Zimbabwe with his family as he has done in the past. He plans to hold a baby before surgery, like his father did for him when he was born. He said he also looks forward to showing pictures of his progress to families in hopes of inspiring others and reminding them that anything is possible. 

"My life has been transformed look at me before you know and look at me now," said Philip. "You're not alone. If I can go through it you can do it too." 

The family plans to leave for Zimbabwe on June 7 and return on June 25. 

So far the family has raised nearly $75,000. The goal is to raise $100,000 by their departure to finish paying for the surgeries and the medicine needed to preform them. 

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