Nearly 20 life-changing facial reconstructive surgeries for children as young as three months will take place in the Northern Cape during the course of this week and next week.
Parents, who have travelled long distances to the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley, say they cannot wait to see how their children’s lives will change for the better.
Parents of children who are set to undergo surgeries during the 2021 Smile Week in Kimberley say they are happy that their children will not be victims of bullying and won’t be stigmatised in their communities.
“Every mother likes to see their child smile. The first time I saw her like that, with a cleft palate I felt down because I don’t deserve to see her like that,” says one of the parents.
Another one adds, “I am excited because I have been waiting for this for such a long time because my child’s nostrils were not equally the same size. The one was big and the other one was smaller. So, now they opened the smaller whole. I am glad Katlego got help at a very young age.”
While some have expressed excitement, the mother of a 1-year-old, Edgeline Masekwameng, says she is anxious about the medical procedure for her child. “I am nervous. I am not sure what to expect for the cleft palate operation.”
Meanwhile, the Head of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Unit at the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital, Dr Maria Cilliers says these surgeries help build children’s confidence as they grow older.
“We are here to help them, to restore their normality, to be more normal. Like if the child is born with cleft lip, we do the cleft lip repair when the child is three months old. And if it is a cleft palate, an opening on the mouth, we do when the child is 12-years of age. If it is an ear deformation we wait until six to seven years of age. If it is a teenager with a big breast we wait until the breast completely stops its growth. So, it’s a variety of procedures we do.”
Smile Foundation says it will continue helping children that need surgeries despite the challenges experienced by the foundation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
-Reporting by Katleho Morapela