The Smile Foundation came to Frere Hospital last week to change the lives of three little ones who were given reconstructive surgeries for free after birth defects and harrowing burn accidents compromised their development.
A team of 12 doctors, nurses, and support staff traveled from Gqeberha to East London to donate their time and resources towards completing surgeries intended to improve the children’s ability to speak, eat, breathe, and thrive.
Maria Mzileni is the mother of nine-year-old Lunjalo, who received surgery to fix a facial anomaly that has made her life uncomfortable.
“I don’t even have the words to express how happy I am. It has been difficult for me to watch my daughter suffer.
“Every year I have to watch her get scared and anxious when she starts her school year because she has to endure a new group of people who don’t understand her. She gets made fun of and people stare and it breaks my heart.
“I feel a sense of relief knowing that my baby is going to get a chance to live a happy, normal life,” Mzileni said.
Another recipient of the surgery was six-month-old Zisuncumo Sitshaluzo, who was already active and smiling a couple of hours after surgery.
Nandipha, the baby’s mother, expressed happiness and gratitude for what this meant for her baby’s future.
“My biggest fear was that I would accept him, but others wouldn’t accept him. He is a brave little guy, he is going to be a gentleman. I have decided that he is going to be a doctor.
“I will teach him to understand every and any different condition without judgment. This is truly a blessing and I am very grateful to the doctors for making this dream come true,” Sitshaluzo said.
The Smile Foundation has been changing lives since 2000, with this Smile Week being the third one held in East London.
The foundation has made it their mission to make a difference in the lives of SA children living with facial conditions such as cleft lip and palates, nose conditions, and burn wounds.
Frere Hospital acting CEO Mmabatho Ndwandwe said the work done by the foundation was truly appreciated and is making a difference.
“As the Department of Health, we appreciate this initiative because we do not have a plastic surgeon here at the hospital. The Smile Foundation is always welcome here,” Ndwandwe said.