A journey to new vision starts

2013-01-26 00:00

SHE’S seen too much of the world already — and it’s a world her eyes had nowhere to hide from.

But next week that will change for the two-year-old girl from Matatiele whose face was horribly disfigured and burnt in a brutal attack when she was nine months old.

The toddler, who cannot be identified as she is a minor, checks in at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban on Monday for an operation to restore her eyelids.

She will have the skilled hands of surgeon Professor Anil Madaree working on her. And his services will cost the family nothing, thanks to Operation Smile.

Madaree, who volunteers his time to the charity, is also expected to work on the girl’s burnt arm and mouth, which no longer has lips.

They were chopped off, along with her left ear and nose, and allegedly sold by her attacker for muthi, in September 2010.

Her thumb and a finger on her left hand were also hacked off.

The man then set the child ablaze after wrapping her in a blanket. Her face, head and one arm were badly burnt. Police arrested two suspects last year, but both were released. There have been no further arrests.

Impoverished, the family has tried to rebuild their lives, with a little help from a guardian angel.

Amy Byloo, a junior architect from Pietermaritzburg whose heart melted when she saw the story in The Witness last year, has slaved behind the scenes to get the scarred youngster the treatment she needs.

Byloo has pestered and nagged anyone and everyone to assist the little girl and it was down to her efforts that Operation Smile came on board.

She will be reunited with the family tomorrow when they arrive in Pietermaritzburg, mindful of the long road that lies ahead.

“I hope her eyes haven’t been permanently affected. I hope it goes smoothly. There is a still a long road to recovery that will only really start when she is four or five.”

Madaree said last year, during a consultation with the family, that years of reconstruction were necessary.

But he advised as normal an upbringing as possible. “She must be encouraged to go to school.

“ She must not be treated as a special needs child.”

Byloo would love nothing more than to see her little charge get a good education and has established a small committee with a husband-and-wife team from Pietermaritzburg to help solicit donations and co-ordinate their work.

One Durban accounting firm has already given R7 000, money that is being spent on the family’s transport and accommodation and other basic needs.

While more money is needed, Byloo said they would be grateful for any food, clothing and toys.

“But what I would like to do is be able to give them money so she can get an education.”

For now it’s about giving back what was taken from the child and Paul Kelly, education manager for Operation Smile in Africa, committed to helping for as long as possible.

The charity is best known for helping children with cleft palates, but through its World Care Programme identifies kids in Africa with “cranio-facial” disfigurements.

Kelly said the child would need 10 to 14 days of recovery in hospital and home care after that.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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