Amanda Mahana, a mother from Welkom, says when she would take her child to the clinic for a check-up she would hide her face so that people would not stare. Little Ndileka is one of approximately 17 children who have received cleft lip and cleft palate surgery during Smile Week, which was held from 11-14 March at the Universitas Academic Hospital.
“The nurses encouraged me not to cover Ndileka’s face. They encouraged me that she would receive the help she needs, and now that she has had her first surgery, I am very hopeful for her future,” said Mahana.
The week’s surgeries did not only include cleft lip and cleft palate repairs but also reconstructive surgery on a two-year-old girls’ hand and another on a ten-year-old Sasolburg girl, Selloane Modise, who could not have a full head of hair due to severe scarring caused by third-degree burns she had sustained to her head, arms and hands in a shack fire, when she was just a year old.
Smile Foundation Operations’ executive director, Moira Gerszt, said that this year marks the tenth year that the foundation has supported the Universitas Academic Hospital. “This year we will be having two Smile Weeks because of the high number of children in need of surgery. We are pleased to be part of the process that will help the group of young patients’ lives change for the better.”
Head of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive surgery at the University of the Free State, Professor Fred Jooste, headed the team of surgeons and supporting hospital staff who were part of Smile Week.
“I’ve been working with the Smile Foundation for ten years now, and in those ten years I could not tell you how many children we have helped, but it’s a lot. And f we did not have the Smile Foundation it would have been a problem helping those children,” said Prof. Jooste.
Jooste will be retiring soon as he is turning 65 years in April, however, he will continue to lend his expertise to the Smile Foundation and Universitas Academic Hospital. “I will probably come back and do some sessions just to help the young registrars and mentor them, but we do need someone else to take over as Head of Department and then I can go sit on my ‘stoep’ and enjoy my retirement,” he concluded. – Seithati Semenokane