Pippie’s plastic surgeon to be sued

2014-09-28 06:00

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He is little Pippie Kruger’s hero – but the plastic surgeon who became famous for helping save the little burn victim’s life is about to be sued by another young patient’s parents.

Giusi Harper, the lawyer representing Celiwe Maseko (5), says she is preparing a civil suit against “the relevant parties” – among them plastic surgeon Dr Ridwan Mia.

Celiwe’s parents, Brown and Katlego, have already reported Mia to the Health Professions Council of SA (HPCSA).

The council will decide on Thursday whether to charge Mia for unprofessional conduct. Mia has rejected the complaint against him.

Celiwe was hospitalised in January last year with burns to 35% of her body. A fund set up by fellow burn victim Pippie Kruger’s family donated R500 000 to pay for cloned skin, a procedure similar to the one used to repair Pippie’s skin after she was burnt.

Mia has been hailed for his work: last year he received an Order of the Baobab (silver) from President Jacob Zuma for his “outstanding contribution to the medical field”.

But not everyone was convinced.

An article by another plastic surgeon in the SA Medical Journal suggested that the type of skin graft Mia was using wasn’t appropriate.

Genzyme, the company that was growing the cloned skin, recently stopped production.

Brown Maseko said his daughter was “exposed to the most inhumane pain”.

He drove to Joburg three times a week from the family’s home in Thabazimbi, Limpopo – a 560km round trip – to visit his daughter in the Garden City Clinic.

The cloned skin was being grown in Genzyme’s laboratory in Boston, Massachusetts, to be imported to South Africa.

The cloned skin is usually used as a last resort when a burn victim doesn’t have any available skin that can be harvested and used in a transplant.

Celiwe rejected the skin two months after the operation and a normal skin graft, using her own skin, was successfully done.

“The system failed us. We were not sufficiently informed about what the surgery entailed and that the cloned skin was not needed in Celiwe’s case,” said Brown Maseko.

“We feel extremely guilty that Celiwe’s life was almost destroyed because of the operation.

“We were put through absolute hell and we would never have said yes if we knew what Celiwe had to go through.”

He said he had trusted Mia and accepted his decisions at the time.

“Celiwe was extremely brave and she dealt with it much better than us,” he said.

“She was much stronger than me and Katlego. When Katlego started to cry, Celiwe comforted her and said that everything was okay.”

Maseko said their relationship with the surgeon reached a new low when Mia told journalists he’d decided to use cloned skin because Celiwe’s parents had begged him to make sure their daughter wasn’t scarred any further.

“This is completely false,” said Maseko. “Mia advised us that the cloned skin was the best option for Celiwe.”

The couple say they were also concerned when they discovered the cloned skin was transparent and was black with white patches.

“We told Mia we were not happy that white skin would be transplanted on to our black child, but his answer was that it was in Celiwe’s best interests and that we should trust him.”

Private investigator Mike Bolhuis, who acts on behalf of Mia, said the doctor had always acted in Celiwe’s best interests.

Bolhuis said it was unfair to suggest that Mia had been negligent or motivated by anything but his patient’s needs while she was in his care.

The investigator also said Mia had not billed the family for a number of procedures and consultations, and had documented these in his notes.

He said Mia did not have any financial interest in the company that produced the cloned skin and would not get anything from them for using their product.

“Mia will appeal to the HPCSA to see the complaint as a malicious and frivolous attempt to smear his professional and good name, as well as to seek financial gain,” Bolhuis said.

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