Shy Lesotho man gets a new face, thanks to Operation Smile

2009-07-19 00:00

WHILE the world celebrates the birth of icon Nelson Mandela today, Tsasane Selata will be counting the days until he receives a maxillofacial prosthesis, which will enable him to face society without the fear of being ostracised.

Selata, who has a gaping hole in his face, the result of a cancerous tumour, will be able to walk around with a “new face”.

The shy 31-year-old from Lesotho will receive the maxillofacial prosthesis, which is being made by Peter Fuber, a lecturer at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), next week.

Selata, who lives in rural Lesotho, had never been to the city or even seen a shower until members of Operation Smile South Africa (OSSA) stepped in to help him lead a normal life after chemotherapy disfigured his face.

Operation Smile provides free surgery to repair cleft lips and cleft palates and related care to adults and children living in rural areas who are unable to access primary health care.

OSSA, in conjunction with the ministry of Health and Inkosi Albert Luthuli Hospital, also runs a World Care Programme aimed at caring for those who are suffering from more severe craniofacial disorders.

Weekend Witness was invited to a fitting of the prosthesis at DUT yesterday.

A nervous-looking Selata sat quietly as Fuber inspected his face to ensure that the prosthesis would fit.

Grant Somers from the Dental Services Department explained that the prosthesis was still in the wax process and that a nose and artificial eye still needed to be created.

He said that DUT’s Dental Sciences Department is excited about offering this treatment as it is not offered at any of the country’s other teaching institutions.

“We decided to help because we want him to lead a normal life.

He has no family or friends and lives as an outsider in his native Lesotho,” he said.

Somers said Selata does not fully understand the maxillofacial prosthesis process, but will be very excited when his prosthesis is finally fitted.

“He sits very quietly during the fittings and hardly says a word. Maybe he’s nervous, we’re not sure.

“He is going to get a huge surprise when his sees his prosthesis for the first time,” he said.

Once the prosthesis is fitted, Selata will return home to Lesotho to show off his new face.

Somers said that Selata would be provided with the special glue to keep the prosthesis in place and would also be given yearly check- ups.

“We decided to help because we want him to lead a normal life. He has no family or friends and lives as an outsider in his native Lesotho.”

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