Child’s surgery brings great joy

2017-05-17 06:03
Thanks to the Smile Foundation, Eddie Mbuthu (9) said his first clear word on Wednesday (10/05) to his grandmother, Poppy Leeuw, in the Kimberley Hospital Complex after surgery on his split uvula. Photo: Boipelo Mere

Thanks to the Smile Foundation, Eddie Mbuthu (9) said his first clear word on Wednesday (10/05) to his grandmother, Poppy Leeuw, in the Kimberley Hospital Complex after surgery on his split uvula. Photo: Boipelo Mere

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Eddie Mbuthu (9) was not aware of the difference he made in his grandmother Poppy Leeuw’s life when he said his first clear word, “ouma”, from his hospital bed in the ­Kimberley Hospital Complex (KHC) on Wednesday (10/05).

Eddie was given a new lease on life after ­undergoing surgery on his split uvula, thanks to the Smile Foundation, a ­non-governmental organi­sation.

Eddie was among the first 27 children who were operated on as part of the foundation’s Smile Week initiative that took place from Monday, 8 May, to Friday (12/05) in the Northern Cape.

Supported by the ­Australian government, in collaboration with the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Burns at the KHC, the children were operated on under the leadership of Dr Maria Giaquinto-Cilliers.

Giaquinto-Cilliers is the specialist plastic surgeon and head of the unit at the KHC.

Close to tears, the emotional grandmother said she felt like cuddling her grandson forever for that one word he had said.

Still tired from the effects of the surgery, Eddie gave his granny a shy smile before she lulled him gently to sleep.

“He has been my miracle son ever since his parents had passed away.

“He has never been able to say a single from due to this problem.

“This is the day that we have been waiting for all his life – the day that we travelled to the Kimberley Hospital and did not get a postponement for surgery.

“But I am not complaining and I did not give up either, because there were reasons behind the postponements,” said Leeuw.

According to her, her grandson ended up being referred from a normal to a special school due to his inability to communicate with his peers and the teachers.

“I felt so helpless to see him going through the humiliation and teasing in his own society.

“He ended up refusing to go to the normal school and cried that he was being teased.”

“He ended up using sign language, because the words could not come out at all, no matter how hard he tried.”

Leeuw pledged her commitment to her grandson’s road to recovery by ensuring that he attended each and every one of his speech therapy sessions.

The Smile Foundation promised to assist in further intervention sessions through its various surgical consultants who have kindly offered their expertise to assist with the operations.

Leeuw was not sure whether her grandson would still be required to attend the special school, or return to a normal school.

“But the special school is where he felt comfortable and where he fit in.

“This school became one of the few places he felt accepted away from home.”

This was the first opportunity to facilitate a Smile Week in the Northern Cape, thanks to the ongoing partnership with the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.

According to the ­executive chairman and co-founder of the Smile Foundation, Marc Lubner, the KHC caters for patients from the vast region with limited resources and only one plastic surgeon ­consultant in the city for the whole province.

“As a result, there is a massive backlog of children in desperate need of surgery. With additional consultants flying into Kimberley for the Smile Week from other national academic institutes to lend their assistance, pro bono, this backlog was addressed and many more children will receive their surgery timeously,” said Lubner.

Amongst the surgeries performed over the week were several hard and soft palate repairs, cleft lip and palate repairs and a nasal reconstruction.

Giaquinto-Cilliers said they had been looking forward to this for many years.

“Smile Week will provide the children of our region the delight of bypassing long waiting lists to have their surgery done at the Kimberley Hospital Complex and the opportunity to be our number-one priority.

“My team and I are looking forward to a long and successful partnership with the Smile Foundation, whilst improving the lives of the children in the Northern Cape, one surgery at a time.”

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