EIGHTEEN children in the Northern Cape have reason to smile after they under went reconstructive surgery this week which not only repaired the cleft lip of some, but also helped burn victims.
The Smile Foundation, together with the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) and the Northern Cape Department of Health said the children now had second chance and much more self confidence.
Moira Gerst from Smile said the aim of the initiative is to improve the lives of children who are in need of surgery.
“Smile Week is a full working week during which surgeons, their assisting surgical teams, other medical professionals and hospital staff open their hearts and clear their schedules to perform reconstructive surgery on disadvantaged children suffering from facial anomalies as well as provide support for the emotional pain that accompanies these conditions.
“Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) is the sponsor for the week. The company works in collaboration with Smile and the Department of Reconstructive Surgery at Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley,” said Gerst.
She said the current pandemic has temporarily halted the assistance the foundation wanted to give to patients.
“The head of plastic surgery at Robert Mangaliso Hospital has indicated that many beneficiaries could not attend surgery due to the lockdown regulations or fear of contracting Covid-19. That resulted in many patients not having access to surgery,” she said.
Gerst said they are planning to have a second Smile Week later this year in order to reach more patients.
“The pandemic has made us realise that there are still many patients who are in need of surgery. Some patients have missed out on an opportunity to get the surgery and we need to reach out to those patients,” said Gerst.
She said some of the beneficiaries who benefitted from the surgery was under the age of five
“One of the patients who received hand surgery was a two-year-old girl who suffered a traumatic event while her mother was cooking dinner for her family over an open fire.
“Although the child survived excruciating burns, she has suffered from contractures of the second, third and fourth fingers on her right hand she has also acquired syndactyly, a condition where two or more fingers fuse together.
“Another beneficiary was a three-year-old boy who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. In 2019 he underwent cleft lip surgery. His doctors at the time informed the child’s parents that he’d need at least three more operations to fully repair his facial anomalies.
“Overwhelmed, his parents reached out to the Smile Foundation, and the child was given the chance to undergo the next stage of his operations needed to be able to fully smile on the outside too,” Gerst said.