Boy mauled by hyena in high spirits as doctors prepare for surgery

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Rodwell Khomazana being taken into the hospital on a gurney at Mediclinic Sandton.
Rodwell Khomazana being taken into the hospital on a gurney at Mediclinic Sandton.
PHOTO: Guillem Sartorio/AFP
  • Rodwell Nkomazana, 9, was mauled in the face by a hyena while asleep at an all-night church gathering outside Harare, Zimbabwe, last month.
  • Several SA doctors have offered to treat the boy pro-bono, however, R1 million is still needed to cover an escorted medical evacuation from Zimbabwe, reconstructive surgery, post-operative treatment, and aftercare treatment.
  • Nkomazana and his mother arrived at the Sandton Mediclinic at the weekend.

Despite being mauled by a hyena in the face and losing an eye, Zimbabwean schoolboy Rodwell Nkomazana is in high spirits as doctors at Mediclinic prepare for his facial reconstructive surgery.  

On Monday, Dr Ridwan Mia, the plastic and reconstructive surgeon who will be leading the team that will be working on Nkomazana, held a media briefing to give an update on the young patient's condition, after he and his mother arrived in South Africa at the weekend. 

"They both seem quite anxious, but he is a lot more upbeat than we expected. He is quite cooperative. He laughs at your jokes. He's very friendly and listens very attentively," said Mia. 

9-year-old Rodwell Khomazana was mauled
Nine-year-old Rodwell Khomazana, who was mauled by a hyena, arriving at the Mediclinic Sandton Hospital on 19 June 2021.
Rodwell Khomazana is taken into hospital
Rodwell Khomazana is taken into the hospital on a gurney at the Mediclinic in Sandton on 19 June 2021.

SA healthcare workers rallied to raise funds for the boy and his mother to be flown into the country for surgery after the nine-year-old was attacked by a hyena while asleep at an all-night church gathering outside Harare, Zimbabwe, on 7 May.

At the weekend, a medical team travelled to Zimbabwe to fetch Nkomazana and his mother and on Monday morning, doctors at Mediclinic Sandton examined him in person for the first time.   

"What we found was, after removing the dressings, was as overwhelming as we expected. [It's] quite an horrendous injury. This was a big trauma... the left eye was enucleated, so the eyeball was removed by the surgeons in Zimbabwe because it was so badly crushed and damaged," Mia explained. 

Mia previously told News24 that because of the injures Nkomazana sustained, he would need multiple surgeries over a period of time. Apart from missing an eye, the boy will need a complete reconstruction of his nose, upper lip, and part of his cheeks. 

Nkomazana has already had a tube put into his trachea to help with breathing, and on Tuesday, a feeding tube will be put into his tummy in preparation for the face surgery. 

Mia said that they are expecting to begin surgery towards the end of this week. "Essentially [we will be] putting plates into the left sarcoma or the left cheek area and filling the floor of the orbit. [We will also be] putting in a prosthetic device that will allow us to cover what will look like an eye to mimic to the right eye so that his two eyes will look similar at a glance, although it won't be functional," said Mia. 

"Then the big reconstruction will probably happen during the next week. We will have to finalise the days, but we're going to use some tissue from his thigh - what you would call a free flap - and bring that up to reconstruct the upper lip part of the nose, and we will use the remaining part of his forehead as well, to cover that nose, and then use some cartilage from his chest," he added.

All the doctors who will be working on Nkomazana will be doing so on a pro bono basis. 

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