Boy Gets Gift Of Normal Breathing For Christmas
Years of difficulty have finally come to an end for a family from Plettenberg Bay - and just in time for Christmas.
When Christiano, 4, was born he struggled to breathe and at night he would wake constantly. His mother, Segourney, sensed that something was seriously wrong and sought medical help.
"We went from doctor to doctor and he was diagnosed with everything from a blocked nose to tonsillitis," she said.
Christiano was eventually referred to Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital where doctors discovered that he had a condition called micrognathia - a fused jaw joint. The condition caused his jaw not to grow.
By the time Christiano was a year and a half the condition had become life threatening. At night his tongue no longer had enough room in which to rest and would fall back into his throat and cut off his air supply.
Doctors at the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital performed a tracheostomy - a hole in the throat - and Christiano was able to go home with his mother. His mother had been trained how to care for and clean the tracheostomy at the hospital's Breathe Easy programme.
In July this year Christiano underwent surgery that would help his jaw to grow. The surgery, a mandibular distraction, was sponsored by the Smile Foundation, during the annual Smile Week. Midface distractors were inserted in Christiano's jaw. Doctors gradually lengthened his jaw by constantly widening the distractors and creating space for the bone to grow.
The distractors were removed in October and Christiano returned to the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in November to have his tracheostomy removed.
His mother says she is relieved that Christiano can now breathe normally.
"Caring for Christiano has always been a challenge," she said, explaining that she was unable to work because he needed her constant supervision.
"Every month I had to travel to Cape Town for check-ups, I never had time to do anything else because Christiano needed all my attention and time."
Christiano has never been able to attend a creche and his condition has made it impossible for him to speak. His mother said he communicates using gestures. Within days of having the tracheostomy removed Christiano has started to say simple words.
"I'm so grateful to the hospital for all they have done for Christiano," Segourney said. "And I especially want to thank the Smile Foundation for sponsoring the surgery."
Moira Gerszt, the Chief Operating Officer, of the Smile Foundation said: "The Smile Foundation is thrilled to have played a part in giving Christiano the incredible opportunity of this life-changing surgery. Through collaboration with the Sabrina Love Foundation based in Plettenburg Bay, we learnt of Christiano's condition, and were able to reach out and help.
"This Christmas, he will finally have the chance to tell his family how happy he is! It is stories like this that make the work we do so rewarding and we feel so privileged to have played our part in changing this little boy's life forever.
"Thank you to the wonderful surgeons and Sr Jane Booth for being a driving force behind programmes and surgeries at the hospital to make life better for children living with conditions such as Christiano's!"
Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha said: "I want to thank every individual who has contributed to make this miracle happen. The Western Cape provincial government's philosophy is one of creating opportunities for each and every person, and Christiana Luiters story is one of new opportunities - for him and his family."