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Life-changing operation for NC student


The life of a 21-year-old student from Pampierstad was changed after a seven-hour operation made it possible for her to open her mouth for the first time in 16 years.

THE LIFE of a 21-year-old student from Pampierstad was changed after a seven-hour operation at Lenmed Royal Hospital and Heart Centre in Kimberley on Saturday, which made it possible for her to open her mouth for the first time in 16 years.

The student, who survived a serious accident at the age of five, can now open her mouth from 0 to 5cm.

The patient underwent a bilateral temporomandibular joints (TMJ) operation, performed by maxillofacial surgeon Dr Irshaad Abdoola and his team, on Saturday.

The procedure included bilateral TMJ gap arthroplasty with interpositional grafts, abdominal fat harvesting and bilateral coronoidectomies.

This was the first procedure of this magnitude performed at Lenmed hospital in Kimberley.

The definitive surgical management is planned as a two-stage procedure, separated by approximately three months of healing time.

The patient sustained injury to her TMJ’s and gradually developed bony fusion of the joints, which resulted in her being unable to open her mouth.

Her jaws are also underdeveloped because they could not grow normally.

At some stage, she had to have a tooth removed on her lower jaw by a dentist in order to fit food into her mouth.

Abdoola said the fused jaw joints had to be released by removing a bony bridge between her lower jaw and the base of the skull just a few millimetres away from her brain, and placing a graft in the new joint space.

“The second phase will be to reposition the jaws to a better position for better function and for her to have a better facial appearance,” explained Abdoola.

The second part of the procedure will be determined by the recovery rate of the first phase.

“A good result is an opening of more than 3.5cm.”

Abdoola explained further that because the patient’s jaws are underdeveloped, it made her case even more complicated.

He said her jaws fused together as she grew older.

He added that the complications in the patient’s condition led to malnutrition and a change in her facial appearance.

This, he said, in most cases also affects a person’s self-confidence.

“She has been referred to a dietician while she adapts to speaking and moving her jaws. We have to prioritise physiotherapy so she will be able to move her jaws,” said Abdoola.

The patient had pasta for lunch for her first “normal meal” on Monday.

She expressed how excited she was to feel her jaws moving under the bandages.

“I felt like jumping off the bed and shouting at my highest voice,” she said.

On Saturday, before the procedure, she was nervous and broke down when she shared how tired she was of the life that she used to live.

She said she was depressed because she could not enjoy a meal like other people.

She said she was full of hope that her life was going to change when she was referred to Dr Abdoola for the first time.

That is after she had already undergone several procedures, which always made her better for a while until she went “back to square one”.

“I have been praying for a miracle all my conscious life,” she said.

“I went under the knife so many times in an effort to repair the damage caused by the accident. I was always willing to go for surgery, with the hope that it will make a difference

“I kept on asking God why I had to suffer like this. I could not even eat an apple. I was craving braai but could not chew meat. My condition could only tolerate overcooked chicken.”

Abdoola expressed how fortunate he feels to have the opportunity to work with such a “lovely” patient.

“Her positive mindset and eagerness to comply with treatment will, in my opinion, lead to a wonderful result. It is a privilege to share the story and good outcome of such a person,” he said.

Seen from left are Dr Muniera Ibrahim (dentist), Dr Irshaad Abdoola (maxillofacial surgeon) and Dr Henk Kruger (anesthesiologist), who were all part of the operation. Picture: Danie van der Lith
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