The Universitas Academic Hospital’s Smile Week is known for offering families who can’t afford medical assistance for their children, opportunities to have their lives changed through reconstructive surgery.
The Smile Week, which kicked off on 4 September, is sponsored by the Health Division of the financial services group, Momentum Metropolitan, and Smile Foundation, in collaboration with the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Department of Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein where they will assist 22 little lives.
According to Dr Nikita Blake, the acting HOD of the department, the majority of the surgeries that are performed during the week are cleft lip and palate surgeries, which are surgeries performed on children born with abnormalities. “These are children who come from poverty-stricken backgrounds and these mothers didn’t necessarily have all the scans done during their pregnancies and don’t know their children have abnormalities. When the babies are born they look strange or they can’t feed and this is where we come in,” said Dr Blake.
She added that some of these children become lifelong patients and some come back for follow up surgeries, often until they are as old as 18. “The whole goal is to get these children integrated back into society and for them to live normal lives.”
Bloemfontein Courant spoke to one of the mothers, Sonia Moloantoa, who was welcomed into the Smile Foundation family for the first time with her little one, Mphoentle. Moloantoa told the publication that her daughter will be undergoing a cleft lip and palate surgery.
“The past few months have been very difficult, especially when she was born. I’ve never seen a child like her so I kept asking myself what happened. This was until someone told me that I am not the only one and that when I go to Universitas Hospital in Bloemfontein, I will see there are many children like Mphoentle. When I arrived in Bloemfontein, I saw that it was indeed not only me,” she said.
“All I could say was ‘thank you God’, I now know why God gave me this child. He trusted me with her and He knows I will take very good care of her. I love her with all my heart,” she added.
The MEC of the Free State Department of Health, Mathabo Leeto, also attended the Smile Week to wish the surgeons and children well.
“The service that is being rendered here at the hospital really brings a smile to the faces of the little ones and the surgeries will give them confidence to go out there and live their lives. As the department we want to say thank you for the good work that you are doing,” she said.