by Sevak Hakobyan

When asked, “How old are you?” little Artyom raises two fingers and barely manages to lisp the word “two.” At the time Artyom, the Manukyans’ second child, was born, doctors told them the baby had a birth defect known as posterior tongue tie. The bridle of his tongue was stuck to the base of his mouth.

Although Artyom’s condition was not considered particularly serious, his mother had difficulty suckling him and gradually it became clear that the infant had a speech impediment. In Yerevan, doctors told Artyom’s parents that he needed to undergo cosmetic surgery, but that he was too young for such a complex procedure.

Artyom’s mother used to work as a nurse in Yerevan. Later she married and moved with her husband to Deghdzavan, a village in the Tavush Region. Jobs are hard to come by in this border region. The family’s father now works abroad in order to provide for his wife and two sons. The older boy has decided to become a doctor when he grows up. As for two-year-old Artyom, all he wants to do is play and sing. But it takes quite an effort to make out the songs he tries to sing, because of his speech defect.

Doctors from the Glendale Adventist Medical Center (GAMC) team, who had come to Noyemberyan Hospital to provide free medical services through the joint initiative of GAMC and Armenia Fund US Western Region, suggested to Artyom’s parents to treat his condition with a small operation.

Subsequently Artyom was operated on by renowned oral and maxillofacial surgeons Edward Balasanian and Joli Chou of the United States. Both surgeons were taking part in the joint GAMC-Armenia Fund medical mission to Noyemberyan Hospital for the first time.

Right after the surgery, Artyom was playing energetically with his mom and doctors. And when he was asked, “How old are you?” he replied clearly and effortlessly: “Two!”

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Photo Credit: Areg Balayan