A Malmesbury boy born with Apert Syndrome will finally have his natural smile when he undergoes a corrective operation at Tygerberg Hospital.

Cape Town - A Malmesbury boy born with Apert Syndrome will finally have his natural smile when he undergoes a corrective operation at Tygerberg Hospital this week.

The operation is part of the Tygerberg Hospital’s Smile Week sponsored by Big Shoe. Nine-year-old Sibabalwe Mpingelwane will undergo a mono­block procedure, where his midface will be released from his skull using computer simulation and a 3D-printed model.

Apert Syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the shape of the skull and face and both hands and feet. The premature closure of both the coronal sutures of the skull causes an abnormal head structure shape, with a short but high skull with a prominent forehead. In children with Apert Syndrome, the midface is usually underdeveloped with a sunken appearance, bulging eyes and bite occlusion problems due to an underdeveloped upper jaw.

According to Dr Alexander Zühlke, a senior specialist Division of Plastic Surgery at Tygerberg Hospital, one in 60000 to 80000 live births is affected. “This is a very rare congenital disorder,” he said.

Eleven other children between the ages of 4 months and 10 years will also undergo surgery, predominantly to correct cleft palate conditions.

“Every single patient’s operation is important to both the national Department of Health, the hospital and the Smile Foundation,” said Smile Foundation chief executive Hedley Lewis.

According to Lewis, the foundation raises between R12million and R13m a year to help the national Health Department and hospitals with about 280 to 350 operations. He said operations of this nature could cost more than R12000 depending on the duration, the type of operation and medical consumables.

Lewis said putting smiles on children’s faces was important to the foundation.

“These surgeries not only help them, but also give these patients the opportunity to have an enhanced lifestyle as well as to help their families, who may not have been able to fund these types of operations.”

Marga Roetes, a Smile Foundation clinical psychologist, said the Mpingelwane family would receive pre- and post-surgery counselling to prepare them for what they could expect from the operation.

“Counselling helps families understand why we are doing these operations. It encourages and enforces the idea that there is nothing wrong with the child, and helps them have a quality life and to go out there and live.”

“Sibabalwe is our gift from God,” said Sibabalwe’s father Xolani. “He is a very clever and happy child. Our aim is to enrol him in a school that will be able to cater for his needs,” said the father of three.

Lewis said they were grateful to the doctors and to the Smile Foundation for the opportunities they afforded the children.

“We would like to express our sincere thanks to the Tygerberg Hospital and our generous donor, Big Shoe, for once again making this Smile Week possible. We are incredibly grateful to Dr Alexander Zühlke for his commitment to, and passion for, making a positive impact on children’s lives on a daily basis, as well as the entire team at Tygerberg Hospital who help make Smile Week such a success. A special thank you goes to Professor Frank Graewe for giving his time to this unique case,” said Lewis.

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