Cape Town - Nineteen children will finally be receiving life changing reconstructive surgeries during Smile Week under an initiative between Tygerberg Hospital, the Smile Foundation and non-profit donor Big Shoe.
Coordinated by the Smile Foundation, Smile Week is a full working week, during which surgeons, their assisting surgical teams, other medical professionals and hospital staff clear their schedules to perform reconstructive surgery on disadvantaged children suffering from facial anomalies that also have an emotional impact on them.
The procedures will include cleft lip, cleft palate and ear reconstructive surgery and will be sponsored by Big Shoe.
The non-profit organisation is a worldwide growing network of football and sports fans, helping poor children with life changing medical operations and more, thanks in large part due to sponsor and professional German footballer Mesut Özil.
“So many children are excluded from our society due to physical deformation. They should be helped to have a happier future,” Özil said.
Kim Robertson Smith, CEO of Smile Foundation, said: “We are immensely grateful to the Big Shoe foundation for their incredible support of our initiative.
“We show so much appreciation to the dedicated Head of Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Dr Alexander Zuhlke and his team of compassionate surgeons, the medical professionals and hospital staff, who will be giving these children the life-changing surgery they so desperately need.”
One of the children undergoing life-changing surgery is Luna, a 14-month old baby who was born with Pfeiffer Syndrome – a complex genetic disorder in which certain bones in the skull join together in early development.
This prevents the skull from growing normally, affecting the shape of the head and face sometimes causing increased pressure around the brain.
If left untreated, Pfeiffer Syndrome can cause developmental complications such as raised intra-cranial pressure causing recurrent headaches and problems with vision.
In Luna’s case, her mother Maggie - who lost her job due to the Covid-19 pandemic - was told after giving birth, that her little girl had the condition and would need cranial remodelling surgery as soon as possible, to avoid further health problems down the line.
Luna was added to the Smile Week list to be operated on and will be given the chance of enjoying a happier childhood. Her operation will be an intricate and lengthy one. Through cranial remodelling, her skull will be re-shaped to allow more room for her brain to grow.
Being under the age of two, Luna’s bones are still soft and pliable, which will make them easier to move to create a normal head shape. Her parents are optimistic the operation will give their daughter a far better start in life than she might otherwise have had.
“Our faces are one of our most important assets in life. They display our emotions, which share necessary clues to our feelings with those around us,” said Robertson Smith.
“Not being able to express ourselves properly, has a dire effect on our psychological wellbeing.
“Through our commitment to support the rights and meet the needs of previously disadvantaged children, we aim to offer every child a chance to overcome their difficulties and live more fulfilling lives.”