Smile-Giving Surgery Comes to Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital
Almaze* can smile again thanks to the facial reanimation surgery she underwent at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital.
Almaze, six, had partial paralysis on the right side of her face.
Dr Saleigh Adams, the plastic surgeon at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, said: "Almaze was born with a Congenital Facial Palsy, making it impossible to display any form of facial expression on the right side of her face."
On March 22, Almaze underwent facial reanimation surgery at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital. That was the first time the surgery had been performed at the hospital.
During the surgery, Professor George Psaras removed a muscle from Almaze's thigh and transplanted it into her cheek. Prof Psaras then reattached the muscle's nerves and arteries to its new home.
"This is a highly acclaimed form of surgery in the world at the moment. Almaze's condition made her an ideal candidate. She underwent ten hours of complex surgery with good effect. She was discharged six days later in a satisfactory condition. The surgery outcome can only be judged in about two months when Almaze displays her first real smile. At the moment it looks very favourable."
The surgery was part of a partnership between Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital and the Smile Foundation. The Smile Foundation is an NGO which helps children with facial abnormalities to access free corrective plastic and reconstructive surgery within South Africa. It also runs a skills development programme, creating training platforms to teach surgeons how to correct facial abnormalities.
Dr Adams said: "I highlighted this case to Smile so that the technique could be taught and used at the hospital. I invited Professor Psaras when we met in June at the Tenth Anniversary Smile Week and at that time he expressed his eagerness to teach me in our wonderful theatres. I took the opportunity to arrange a complete workshop to cover not only the surgery but also the entire topic of facial reanimation via a series of lectures."
Almaze's parents have brought her back to the hospital for check-ups and her recovery has been good, according to her father.
"The doctor is impressed because she is recovering so well but I always say, if you do your work well then what follows will go well too," her father said.
*Almaze's surname is being withheld to protect her privacy.