Kaydene Cloete 9 months held by her mother Katlene Cloete will be operated on. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)
Kaydene Cloete 9 months held by her mother Katlene Cloete will be operated on. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Smile Week: Life-changing surgeries planned for Cape children to bring back their smiles

By Shakirah Thebus Time of article published Nov 11, 2021

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Cape Town - Nearly 20 life-altering children’s surgeries will take place during Smile Foundation’s Smile Week.

Non-governmental organisation, Smile Foundation aims to provide comprehensive healthcare for children living with facial conditions.

Nineteen patients from as young as three months to 11 years old will undergo these surgeries, which will include cleft lip, cleft palate and ear reconstructive surgery.

Sponsored by Big Shoe, the first surgeries took place at the start of the week and will continue until November 12, at the Tygerberg Hospital, co-ordinated by the Smile Foundation.

Big Shoe is a non-profit network of football and sports fans assisting with medical operations for underprivileged children.

The children undergoing surgery are mostly from Khayelitsha, Paarl, Franschhoek, Ceres and Wellington.

Surgeons, their assisting surgical teams, other medical professionals and hospital staff will perform complex surgeries free of charge for these underprivileged children.

Smile Foundation SA general manager, Kim Robertson Smith said of the more complex surgeries is that of 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.

Khallen Francis, 15-months-old, being held by her mother Juanita Francis (grey top) will undergo a cleft palate operation. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Luna will have to undergo an intricate and lengthy operation – cranial remodelling. Her skull will be re-shaped to allow more room for her brain to grow. The procedure is urgent as Luna is still under the age of two where bones are soft and pliable, making it easier to move to create a normal head shape.

Delaying these surgeries can cause speech impediments, feeding difficulties, and nutritional problems.

“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. Not being able to express ourselves properly has a dire effect on our psychological well-being.

“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,” said Robertson.

Stellenbosch mother Marischen Fischer said she was relieved that her daughter Clayresha will be undergoing cleft lip surgery today, Thursday. Fischer was born on August 16, 2021.

“I am so glad it’s going to happen because I’ve been waiting for this for three months now. Finally it is going to happen. I just wanted to thank all the doctors for the support and everything.”

In a statement, German footballer Mesut Özil, a sponsor of Big Shoe, said: “So many children are excluded from our society due to physical deformation. They should be helped to have a happier future.”

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