Four-year-old now has hope to smile

2015-08-06 06:00
France Cumbana’s parents, Joao and Raquel are very grateful that their son (4) will at last be able to smile. France (4) is undergoing surgery this week in Port Elizabeth to correct his short lower jaw which since birth has resulted in his having dif

France Cumbana’s parents, Joao and Raquel are very grateful that their son (4) will at last be able to smile. France (4) is undergoing surgery this week in Port Elizabeth to correct his short lower jaw which since birth has resulted in his having dif

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FOR the first time in his life France Cumbana (4) from Humansdorp now has the hope to smile, as he undergoes life-changing surgery in Port Elizabeth this week.

Due to his condition, France has never been able to breathe, eat, smile or speak properly.

Apart from these challenges, Frances’s father, Joao, said he was very happy that his child would at last look like other children af-ter the surgeries and would no longer be teased for “not having a chin”.

France was born with a rare facial condition called Pierre Robin Sequence, which results in a very small lower jaw and a tongue that falls back in the throat, often with a cleft palate. In France’s case he has a cleft palate and can only open his jaw 1cm – a one-in-a-million medical condition.

But over the next six weeks, France’s life will be transformed as he undergoes numerous surgical procedures, made possible through the generous funding of Port Elizabeth International Airport and with the support of the Smile Foundation.

Dr. Chris van der Walt, who heads up Cumdana’s medical team, said surgically breaking the boy’s jaw was the first step on the way to lengthen the jaw.

Called a mandible distraction, the procedure sees surgeons breaking the jaw, inserting a special distractor with screws and then, over the next six weeks, gently stretching the broken jaw by 1mm each day.

Van der Walt said France’s cleft palate will only be fixed once the lengthening of his jaw is complete. “Until now it has been impossible to work on the cleft palate, since France’s mouth cannot open enough to allow access.”

It is the first time this procedure is being done in Port Elizabeth, and will position the surgical team to help others who need similar procedures in future.

Moira Gerszt, Operations Executive Director at the Smile Foundation, said they have been supporting the patients coming through this paediatric department for 4 years and on a weekly basis for nearly a year. “This process offers sustainable support for the children and families involved, with surgery and psycholo-gical counselling being made available, as well as education relating to the hospital process.”

France is one of 26 children from the Eastern Cape who will receive reconstructive facial surgery this week as part of the Port Elizabeth International Airport Smile Week, taking place at the Port Elizabeth Provincial Hospital until Friday.

Provincial Hospital operational manager, sister Lungiswa Dyala is co-ordinating all the procedures. She said it is wonderful to be able to be part of such an amazing initiative

Selvin Meyer, acting Airport Manager at Port Elizabeth International Airport, said Airports Company South Africa (ACSA) is proud to once again be associated with the Smile Foundation in making a difference in children’s lives

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