10-year old received life-changing facial reanimation surgery

National NGO, the Smile Foundation, has joined forces with Johannesburg’s Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital and Sasfin, to provide life-changing facial reanimation surgery to a 10-year-old boy in need.

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Sibusiso was born with Moebius Syndrome, a complex congenital neurological disorder that can affect multiple cranial nerves. When the 7th cranial nerve, called the facial nerve is affected, there is paralysis of the muscles that bring about all facial movements. Moebius Syndrome is a rare disorder with an incidence of 1 in 50 000 of all live births in USA. There are no statistics for South Africa. Due to its rarity, few surgeons are exposed to or have been trained to perform this type of surgery.

Dr George Psaras, the Medical Director of the Smile Foundation, has been growing South Africa’s capabilities by undertaking skill exchange programmes in various academic centres of excellence over the past 10 years.

Hedley Lewis, CEO of the Smile Foundation, says, “We are immensely grateful to the incredibly dedicated doctors and staff at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, as well as to Sasfin, for making this life-changing operation possible. Our partnerships with organisations such as these are able to impact children's lives dramatically through the gift of a smile. Smile Foundation is incredibly excited to be playing an integral role in restoring hope and dignity in Sibusiso’s life.”

Sibusiso also suffers from poor peripheral vision and club foot on both of his feet. While he has undergone surgery to rectify this, he still requires further operations on one foot before that condition is fully treated.

His mother, a single parent and sole breadwinner working at a car wash in a petrol station, says she has kept her son indoors most of his life to prevent him from being teased by other children in the neighbourhood.

She says she looks forward to her son enjoying a fuller, more carefree life, unhampered by bullying, stares and questions.

The surgery involves taking a small section of the gracilis muscle from Sibusiso’s leg and using this to reanimate the facial muscles. While it is not a high-risk procedure, it is lengthy, taking between 8 and 12 hours to perform, and requiring continuous precision and concentration. It also requires two teams of surgeons; one harvesting the gracilis muscle and another working on the face to expose the masseter nerve, artery and vein.

Sasfin has been a generous supporter of a number of past Smile Foundation events and is now for the first time, generously sponsoring an individual surgery.

“At Sasfin, we believe in going ‘beyond a bank’ by enabling the growth of the businesses and global wealth of our clients, and by contributing to society in a meaningful way. Driven by the collective spirit of Ubuntu, we are grateful for the opportunity to contribute through our partnership with the Smile Foundation,” comments Elisheva Gilbert, Head of Group Marketing & Communications at Sasfin.

The surgery is scheduled to take place on Tuesday 8 October at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital in Johannesburg.

About the Smile Foundation

We’re About Putting Smiles on the Faces of Children in South Africa! Smile Foundation is a South African NGO that assists children with any type of facial or other conditions, to receive reconstructive surgery within South Africa. We help children who suffer from treatable facial anomalies such as cleft lip and palate, all burns, Moebius syndrome (facial paralysis) and other conditions. We are currently based in 11 Academic Hospitals around South Africa. We are investing in the medical teams we work with, through an Academic Skills programme, and we assist the hospitals by purchasing equipment for use by the Departments of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Our Chief Patron, the late honourable Nelson Mandela’s wish is for us to assist as many children around South Africa as possible to alleviate the stigma attached to living with a facial condition. For more information, contact Smile Foundation on www.smilefoundation.co.za or 0861 276 453. Make a donation today! Help put a smile on a child’s face today! SMS “Smile” to 38413 to donate R10.

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Terri Katz

CSR Manager, Sasfin

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