Ranga – how it all started

How a big story in Switzerland started with a small boy from India.

Ranga, like so many other children in India, was born with an extremely broad cleft lip and palate. However, unlike many other children, he had the luck to meet Erika Sailer, who was still successful in the textile industry, while on one of her many trips to India. His fate simply did not let her rest anymore and she decided to help him by financing an operation in Zurich.


Convincing Prof. Sailer of the need for an operation was actually one of the easy bits - the complicated part was getting all of the official permits and organising Ranga's departure. But Erika Sailer was resilient and spent many months making applications and collecting money for Ranga's operation. "It was amazing," says Prof. Sailer even today. "We were all incredibly impressed by her commitment, me most of all." And she ultimately got her way: Ranga was operated on in Zurich.


The fact that it was such a spectacular intervention, even for Swiss circumstances, awakened the interest of Swiss TV; the OP was recorded and broadcast. In an incredibly complicated 14-hour operation, Ranga's cleft was initially closed and at the same time the position of his upper jaw (maxilla) corrected. But the operation itself, as well as the healing process, took place without complications and immediately pointed to a very promising outcome.


And that was the case: after just a few days Ranga was able to see the results for himself in a mirror - and could hardly believe his luck: the cleft which had completely dominated his life to date and made him an outsider in his own world, was no longer there. He hesitantly tried to smile. And it worked!

Ranga was not only infinitely grateful but also motivated as never before to do something with his life. "He caught up on everything," reports Erika Sailer, full of pride, "he learned to eat and speak properly, caught up in school, gained friends and finally - something he had never even hoped for - got a job in a hotel.  He sent me photos of himself standing there, totally proud in his uniform welcoming guests every day in the foyer with a warm smile. Absolutely great." Without an operation this would have been impossible.

"When I saw him again in September 2017 in our centre at the university of Mangalore," reports Prof. Sailer, "he had completed his training as a nurse and was working there in the clinics." "It was because of him that I came to India, which left a lasting impression. The beauty of the country as well as the sobering poverty of the people there. We simply had to do something. And since we were unable to transport all children like Ranga to Switzerland, we set up the Cleft-centres to help them." And so Ranga was the first child in India who Prof. Sailer was able to help with a cleft operation. The first of many thousands of lives which have been changed for the better by him and his team of specialists.