Putting a smile on 23 little faces

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One of the children who received cleft lip and palate surgery on Tuesday, Tlhonolofatso Malia.

This March, 23 brave children will undergo surgery and 23 families’ lives will change forever as Smile Week is held at Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein.

One of the children who received cleft lip and palate surgery on Tuesday was 8-yearold Tlhonolofatso Malia.

According to her mother, Boitumelo Malia, she struggled to get her to Bloemfontein for four years, as there were complications with getting an appointment. “I’m glad we are here now and I’m grateful that my child can finally get her surgery after waiting for so long,” she said.

According to Dr Nikita Blake, a surgeon from the Smile Foundation, surgery on an older child becomes complicated, as the child has already developed a deformed way of speaking. “This then means that the child has to undergo extensive post-op speech therapy in order for them to learn how to speak normally with their repaired cleft lip and palate,” she said. “We normally prefer to operate on the children before they turn 12 months as this is when they start learning to speak. This then makes the speech therapy much easier on both the child and their parents.”

Another child who underwent surgery is 7-year-old Lindokuhle from Warden, who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate. Kim Robertson-Smith, the CEO at Smile Foundation, said before Lindokuhle’s first surgery in 2015, his mother said that seeing her child like that broke her heart.

“I was afraid for him and also afraid of how the world would treat him because he was different from other children. It was a big struggle to feed him because the food came through his nose. In 2015, he had his first cleft lip repair; he was so beautiful afterwards and the feeding was much better,” said Lindokuhle’s mother. Robertson-Smith said although his speech is still an issue, the surgery to his palate will help solve the problem, restoring his confidence and giving him a happier future.

Mr A Khathola – head of security, Kim Robertson Smith – CEO of the Smile Foundation, Joanne Ranyanne PRO, Prof C Nel, Mrs Molisapodi – head of nursing, Mrs Linda Strydom – assistant manager, Dr Nikita Blake, Mr L Lebesane – security.

“It is with immense admiration and gratitude that we acknowledge every medical professional at Universitas Academic Hospital and administrators, sponsors, volunteers, colleagues, and friends who have sacrificed their time to changing lives and making miracles happen,” Robertson-Smith concluded.

Seven-month-old Omolemo Khiba also underwent cleft lip and palate surgery as part of the Smile Foundation’s Smile Week.

Justine Fortuin

justine@mahareng.co.za