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Major backlog exists in child surgeries
Patient Rhiaadra is a two-year-old child diagnosed with Aperts Syndrome, a genetic disorder which involves the skull, the face and both hands and feet. Apart from other aspects, the fingers and toes are webbed and fused which severely impairs hand function.Photo: Supplied

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a growing backlog of children in urgent need of life changing surgery as soon as it is deemed safe.

According to the Smile Founda­tion all elective surgeries have been postponed to ensure patient safety and enable hospitals to effectively respond to the pandemic.

Only urgent oncology and trauma cases are receiving surgery, resulting in the backlog which include plastic and reconstructive surgery for children in desperate need.

Hedley Lewis, CEO of the Smile Foundation, says a number of children supported by the founda­tion are awaiting surgery at various hospitals across the country, including in Kimberley.

“The reconstructive surgery required to assist these children not only puts hundreds of children needing life-changing surgery at a disadvantage, but the costs will run into hundreds of thousands of rands to try catch up to pre-Covid levels of service.”

Lewis says the postponement of these surgeries has had a significant psychological impact on the patients and their families, and in some cases, could have long-term effects on the patients.

“A long-term successful outcome for a cleft lip or palate means a baby needs to be operated on within the first 12 months, especially for speech development. Delaying the surgeries could result in long-term permanent issues including never learning to speak correctly.”

Patient Rhiaadra is a two-year-old child diagnosed with Aperts Syndrome, a genetic disorder which involves the skull, the face and both hands and feet.

Not only does Aperts Syndrome produce a cosmetic deformity that makes children very self-conscious and can lead to significant emotional distress, but the pressure on the developing brain can lead to clinical symptoms, such as chronic head­aches and can disrupt intellectual development. The fingers and toes are webbed and fused which severely impairs hand function.

Rhiaadra’s surgery was scheduled to take place on 2 June. This surgery aimed to make more space for her brain to protect her eyes because there is no protection due to the shape of her skull. It has been rescheduled for September.

The Smile Foundation assists children with any type of facial or other conditions, to receive reconstructive surgery within South Africa and are based in 11 academic hospitals, including the Robert Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley.

  • To help the Smile Foundation to provide urgent assistance to these children and their families, the organisation is calling on the public to take part in a raffle where your name will be entered into a draw for R100 per ticket to stand the chance of winning R100 000 cash.
  • The raffle draw date is on World Smile Day, which is on Friday, 2 October. To enter, visit www.smilefoundation.co.za.
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