Like most young girls of her age, Selloane Modise, a bubbly 12-year-old from Bloemfontein, only has one wish. She wants “nice hair”.
However, Selloane’s story differs vastly from that of most of her peers. She has walked a long, often painful journey, after having sustained third-degree burns to her head, arms and hands in a shack fire when she was just one year old.
During this journey Selloane often battled both physical and emotional trauma and has undergone a multitude of surgeries throughout her young life, on her hands, including reconstructive surgery to her face, neck, scalp and left hand. She lost all her fingers in the blaze. Following the operation, on her hands, Selloane was able to hold a pen, and began to learn to write and colour in.
Aside from physical deformities, third degree burns also prevented hair growth – through severe scarring. Selloane received a skin graft, where normal skin from her thigh was grafted over the injured area.
But the goddess of fortune is smiling at her. Next week she takes an important step in her journey – one for which she has been anxiously waiting for years – the beginning of the process to grow new hair. This will happen during the Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein’s Smile Week, which will take place between 11 and 14 March 2019.
Selloane has only 40% hair growth on her head and keeps her head permanently covered with hats and scarves. Now, surgeons have harvested new skin to replace the skin on the other 60% of her scalp so Selloane may have a chance at having a full head of beautiful hair.
During the 2015 Universitas Academic Hospital Smile Week, Selloane received a new prosthetic left ear, custom-made from realistic-looking silicone to match her right ear. This was a major highlight for her on her journey to recovery.
Along with Selloane’s operation, Universitas Academic Hospital Smile Week will see 15 young patients undergoing surgery for cleft lip and cleft palate repairs as well as reconstructive surgery on a two-year-old girl’s hand, and a six-year-old boy’s tongue. – Pieter Delport