Source: Tyger Burger
Tygerberg hospital never sleeps, but between 9 and 13 November ward G3 of this hospital became a hub of activity as 43 little patients with facial anomalies were treated here as part of Smile Week.
Two doctors, Professor Frank Graewe and Dr Alexander Zühlke, and their plastic and reconstructive surgical teams used two theatres and the staff of ward G3 to make this happen, while the Smile Foundation filled the gaps and took care of all the needs that arose around this group of patients.
Free services eight times a year. The Smile Foundation, an NGO that was founded in 2000, has a memorandum with eight academic hospitals in South Africa. Although they support the hospitals throughout the year, for one week per year their efforts at each hospital are concentrated.
“We get donors on board, support the children with their transport, help source the necessary equipment for their operations and offer services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy and psychology for parents and patients so that they are more relaxed before surgery,” says Moira Gertsz, operations executive director at the Smile Foundation.
She says Smile does not only make things easier for the patients, their families and doctors; they also work to create an awareness about facial anomalies in children.
“There are so many children in this region needing corrective surgery, and it will be very gratifying for us to see them having these much needed operations,” she says.
One in 750 South African children is born with a facial anomaly.
“We are mindful of the needs of the hospital, we acknowledge the challenges of each hospital and the different communities they serve. We have to balance the donors’ expectations. But in the end Smile is all about the kids.
“We do not charge their families anything. Those who qualify to be helped are those without medical aid who are patients at the hospital, as well as some patients who are referred through us,” says Gertsz.
According to Doreen Kosi of Adcock Ingram, who sponsored this week, “Smile Week is our flagship project. We are guided by Smile and we follow their strategy. We want to add value.”
One of the patients who received plastic surgery is Ilke Moses (11) from Paarl, who’ll have her smile back in a week or so after her post operative swelling has disappeared.
Ilke suffered facial paralysis when she was five years old because of a bacterial infection in her ear. In a prior operation, a new muscle was constructed in her cheek, but the muscle sagged, skewing her face. This has now been corrected.
“It helped to meet other parents. We shared our stories and spent a day together. A strong bond was formed. We even exchanged numbers,” says Ilke’s mother, Josephine.
Although Ilke will not be writing exams following her surgery, her marks are good enough for her to pass Grade 5.
“She is a clever girl. She brought all her school work to the hospital, because she wants to become a doctor,” Josephine says.
Cole Basson (5) from Brooklyn was born with a hole behind his palette. His mother, Megan, says the hole was almost 7cm in diameter and had a detrimental effect on his speech development.
“This was his first operation and hopefully also his last. It will take a couple of days for his speech, which was very nasal, to return and then he will start with speech therapy through Smile. I am glad it is done. He will start with Grade R next year,” Megan says.
The day after his operation, Cole was eating yogurt and had his face painted by volunteers who entertained the children in the play room of Ward G3.
Scars, birth defects repairedNiyole Tsokobe (4) from Atlantis was in a terrible car accident with her two sisters in December. They all miraculously survived, but Niyole has an huge scar on the side of her head where skin grafting was done and hair will never grow.
Bit by bit Niyole’s scalp will be stretched to replace the scar. The Smile Foundation made the second of her operations possible. Although she seemed calm before her daughter went into surgery, her mother, Nomlinganiso, admitted this has been a very trying year because of the accident.
Reconstructive craniofacial surgery for a one-year-old boy from Khayelitsha, ear reconstruction for a child from Bredasdorp and plastic surgery for a little girl who has Schimmelpenning’s Syndrome were just a few of the other interventions that the medical and Smile teams faced this week.
The next Smile week will commence at Red Cross Children’s hospital on 30 November.
“What stood out for me was the will and determination of the mothers. They are the real heroes in this country. The strength of mommies are really unique,” says Gertsz.