18 free life-changing surgeries for children during Smile Week

Mom Natalie Samuels and ten-month-old Xia from Northpine. Xia received a cleft palate correction surgery from the Smile Foundation. Picture: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Mom Natalie Samuels and ten-month-old Xia from Northpine. Xia received a cleft palate correction surgery from the Smile Foundation. Picture: Armand Hough / Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 15, 2023


Cape Town - Eighteen children will see their lives drastically transformed for the better through free lifesaving surgical procedures including reconstructive surgeries at Tygerberg Hospital during Smile Week.

Smile Foundation’s Smile Week, sponsored by Adcock Ingram, commenced on Monday and surgeons will perform free surgeries for conditions such as cleft lip and cleft palate, congenital hand and foot abnormalities, and the more complex craniofacial reconstruction.

Yesterday, Andre Daniels,10, from Elsies Rivier who was born with Crouzon syndrome, also known as craniofacial dysostosis, a rare genetic disorder affecting the shape of a child’s head and face had his surgery.

Children with Crouzon syndrome often experience complications related to vision, dental, breathing issues, hearing loss, and hydrocephalus.

Daniels’ mother, Catherine said: “Andre gets bullied a lot by other children. It breaks my heart when they mock him and laugh in his face. He is always asked why his eyes are so big and is called terrible names. Some kids can be very cruel, and this causes Andre to cry a lot. Seeing my child struggle like this is very hard for me, I have to hide my tears to be strong for him. I always tell him that he is a special creation and that he needs to be brave because things will get better after his operation.”

Northpine resident and mother of ten-month-old Xia, Natalie Samuels, said that her daughter’s cleft condition was only noticed after birth. She was then referred to the Smile Foundation and corrective surgery was performed on July 29.

“It was not an easy journey. I think people can try and prepare you as much as possible in the beginning but they can't really prepare you for post-operative care and they can't prepare you for going into the recovery room and going to fetch your child. It feels like you’re going to fetch a different child.

“So I think it was traumatic for myself and for Xia because she was used to having this wide mouth. She was bilateral affected so seeing this different child and her trying to cry but she can’t open up her mouth… ”

Samuels thanked the Smile Foundation, hospital staff, and everyone else involved in facilitating the surgery.

“She (psychologist) saw me the night before the surgery. I was an absolute wreck. I didn't know what to expect. I was so afraid for my child. But they are there, from the beginning to end.”

Tygerberg Hospital Head of Plastic Surgery Professor Nick Kairinos said surgeons perform the cases free of charge.

“We must also thank Tygerberg Hospital because they’re giving up their theatres and their nursing staff to help us. But the Smile Foundation via donations helps this cause. They help the parents, they help with transport, they help with clothing, and pillows and for kiddies they bring little cuddly toys. So at the end of the day, how can the public help, it's just donations.”

Smile Foundation SA Strategic Relations Director Moira Gerszt said more surgeries would possibly be added this week.

“We support children within this particular speciality right across the country in academic hospitals. The surgeries depend on what the needs of the children are.”

Members of the Tiervlei Trial Centre were also present yesterday to handover blankets and soft toys for the children.

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Cape Argus