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Foundation to give 20 NC children a reason to smile


“Smile Week continues to be instrumental in helping South African children living with cleft lip and palate, burn injuries and other abnormalities to live normal and healthy lives.”

Doctors and nurses involved with the smile foundation at the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital. Picture: Danie van der Lith

TWENTY children from the Northern Cape will undergo reconstructive surgery this week at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Smile Foundation.

These are the first surgeries that have been sponsored by the Smile Foundation and Sasfin in the region since the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were implemented. The surgeries are being performed from November 16 to 20

Operations performed include cleft lip and cleft palate repairs, constructive surgery and skin grafting.

The Smile Foundation indicated that two of the children were burn wound survivors.

“A six-year-old patient sustained 50 percent flame burn in August when someone accidentally kicked a bottle of paraffin over near to where he was standing next to the fire on a cold afternoon. The bottle exploded, severely injuring him.

“After suffering unimaginable pain, operations twice a week and spending nearly two months in the paediatric intensive care unit, he was transferred to the specialist unit at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital’s burns unit where he was taken for skin grafting using a special device that meshed his skin to fit the multiple open areas.”

Dr Maria Giaquinto-Cilliers. Picture: Danie van der Lith

Specialist head of the plastic and reconstructive surgery and burns unit at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital, Dr Maria Giaquinto-Cilliers said he did not have enough donor areas for the grafts.

“The only way to have most areas of his body covered was to use a specialist device and technique. He was readmitted where he is currently receiving occupational therapy, physiotherapy and will be grafted during Smile Week.”

The Smile Foundation added that a three-year-old patient, who sustained burns to his hands, arms and chest after slipping into a fire while playing outside in June, underwent multiple surgery to save his fingers.

“The surgical team managed to save all his fingers but at the cost of severe contractures of the fingers. These types of surgeries often necessitate surgeries to fix one digit or two at a time, and the main objective is always to keep as many fingers functional.”

The foundation added that the patient had taught himself to use his fingers and had attempted to return to normal daily activities such as colouring-in and playing with his friends.

“During the upcoming Smile Week, the contractures of his fingers will be released, to restore movement.”

A one-year-old patient will undergo surgery this week to repair nostril stenosis, an uncommon abnormality that causes breathing discomfort.

CEO of the Smile Foundation Hedley Lewis. Picture: Danie van der Lith

The CEO of the Smile Foundation, Hedley Lewis, said on Wednesday that donors had contributed to enable these surgeries to take place, under difficult economic circumstances this year.

“Our focus continues to be on giving children a new lease on life and newfound hope that they didn’t even realise was possible. As we attempt to address the major backlog of surgeries due to the delays caused by the pandemic, we continue to call on members of the public as well as businesses to continue supporting us.

“Smile Week continues to be instrumental in helping South African children living with cleft lip and palate, burn injuries and other abnormalities to live normal and healthy lives. While the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown has presented unprecedented challenges in the delivery of vital medical care to those children who need it most, we’re delighted these surgeries have finally resumed.

“As we attempt to adjust to our new normal and address the major backlog in elective surgeries, our top priority remains ensuring we’re able to assist as many children as we can.”

Lewis added that they were awaiting more funds for the completion of the refurbishment of the paediatric burns unit at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital.

“The first phase has been completed while lockdown restrictions halted progress on site. We are busy with the second phase.”