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New smiles for 11 Pretoria children at Steve Biko Academic Hospital

Posted on September 10, 2018

The Smile Foundation is excited to have hosted its first-ever Smile Week in Pretoria at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital. The foundation, of which former President Nelson Mandela was the Chief Patron, assists children across South Africa in need of facial and other reconstructive surgery. With the generous support of donor LG – the Smile Foundation will give 11 children a new reason to smile.

These life-changing surgeries have the potential to transform the lives of these young children, their families, and their caregivers. The involvement of the Steve Biko Academic Hospital and the University of Pretoria also facilitates skills transfer to hospital registrars and consultants. This means this first important Smile Week will ultimately assist more children in and around Pretoria through the transfer and development of specialist skills.

“The University of Pretoria is proud to be involved in this very important initiative, and inspired to make a meaningful contribution to these young children’s lives,” says Prof Tiaan de Jager, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences. “The opportunity to improve children’s lives while equipping our surgical staff with new skills will assist us greatly in strengthening and expanding our efforts to serve other similar patients.”

Dr Yvonne Brakovsky, a Durban-based plastic and reconstructive surgeon, will be changing 7-year-old Kabelo’s life forever when she crafts a new ear for her from three of her ribs. Kabelo was born with microtia, a congenital condition that has left her with no external ear and an upside-down ear lobule. A significant physical deformity, this condition often results in teasing at school, low self-esteem and, in 60% to 80% of cases, may even lead to the development of psychological problems.

“The child and their parents often feel very lonely in dealing with this specific condition, and often do not believe treatment is possible,” Dr Brakovsky says. “But seeing other children with similar problems undergoing the same treatment, progressing to definitive surgery and later recovering, builds confidence and decreases anxiety for young patients.”

The procedure involves first ‘growing’ new skin to cover the new ear, and then sculpting seven different ear parts from costal (rib) cartilage that are joined using thin wires to make up the completed ear. To ‘grow’ the skin, the surgeon will use a procedure described by the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Special gel injections are used to stretch the skin, as opposed to traditional tissue-expanding balloons that are often a source of further embarrassment for the children.

“The specialist skills that the surgeon will employ in this procedure will be transferred to the surgical staff attending from both the hospital and the university,” says Hedley Lewis, CEO of the Smile Foundation. “Through this collaboration we are not only able to further develop the skills of our registrars and up-and-coming consultants, but also help these children today and in the future. This is a core part of the foundation’s vision in fulfilling Madiba’s wish that we help as many children in South Africa as possible with transformative surgeries such as this.”

The Smile Foundation is an NGO dedicated to helping children with treatable facial anomalies receive the surgical treatment they so desperately need. It works with generous donors and the country’s academic hospitals to facilitate these surgeries that give the children involved a new lease on life.

“It was truly a heart-warming experience to see smiles on the faces of children who not too long ago were unable to smile,” Antonio dos Santos, Consumer Electronics Sales Director at LG South Africa concludes. “Above and beyond our partnership with the Smile Foundation, we owe our success to the fantastic patronage and support of the Steve Biko Academic Hospital staff, without whom we could not be part of this journey. Thank you, all.”

To help put a smile on a child’s face today, SMS “Smile” to 38413 to donate R10.

Photo credits: The Smile Foundation

- Author Department of University Relations

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