'There is always a way': Local baby boy receives life-changing surgery

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Hanru is pictured undergoing a series of procedures to correct a cleft lip condition.
Hanru is pictured undergoing a series of procedures to correct a cleft lip condition.

At just 11-months-old, Hanru van der Merwe from Brakpan in Johannesburg has undergone his first surgery. 

The procedure is the first of a series the baby boy will require to repair a cleft lip and palate, the congenital condition occurring in  "one in 500-750 births". 

"He is such a precious and vibrant little boy and his cleft lip and palate not only impacted his feeding and speech but also resulted in healthcare issues," says Hanru's father, Ruan van der Merwe who along with his wife Angelique had previously set up a Facebook page called "Help for Hanru" to raise funds for their son's surgeries. 

The couple say they don't know how thank all those who assisted them in getting their son the help he needed, from the hospital staff who pointed them in the right direction, to the Netcare Foundation which funded the operation. 

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Hanru recovering at home weeks after the surgery. Supplied/ Hanru's parents.

"Hanru was on a waiting list for a procedure. Alet Cloete, the reception manager at Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, however, saw Hanru's Facebook page and brought his plight to the attention of the hospital general manager, Pieter Louw. Pieter encouraged and assisted us to apply to the Netcare Foundation for funding for Hanru's procedure, and we are thankful that he did because Hanru has now had the benefit of the first of the necessary procedures," Ruan said, explaining the backstory. 

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'Help is available'

"A great many South African parents do not realise that the quality of life of children born with cleft lip and palate can be drastically improved as help is available and that there is always a way to get assistance for your child," says Professor Tim Christofides, the man who led the team which completed the surgery to correct Hanru's lip and nose. 

Professor Christofides says that the operation went very well and Hanru is currently recovering at home but a long road still lies ahead for the van der Merwe family. 

"Treatment of cleft lip and palate is a process.. It is not just the surgery that is important, but also the support provided after the procedure or procedures". 

Still, the family remains grateful for having been given this life-changing opportunity. 

"The Netcare Foundation's offer to assist is a Godsend. I was worried that life would be hard for my little boy... Now our special little boy will be allowed to lead a normal life just like other children," Ruan says. 

Specialised surgical programmes that are supported by the Netcare Foundation on an ongoing basis include craniofacial surgery to correct severe facial anomalies, surgical correction of cleft lip and palate mainly in children, and cataract surgery to restore the sight mainly of senior citizens.

For information on how to apply for medical funding visit Netcare.co.za

Submitted to Parent24 by Netcare. 

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