Foundation to put a smile on kids’ faces

Occupational therapist Mereille Pursad.

The Smile Foundation are on a mission to help children at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital by hosting Smile Week from Monday, July 17, until tomorrow, Friday July 21.

They plan to assist 40 children with acute burns, laser cases and reconstructive surgery to alleviate their pain.

The Smile Foundation, which is an NGO, focuses on assisting children with facial conditions through corrective facial reconstructive surgery and treatments.

They turned their attention to children at the hospital’s burn unit as burns have been listed as the leading cause of non-natural deaths among South African children.

“Household fires are always devastating, but even more so when they involve children. Fluid burns account for more than 80% of burn injuries in children, this spikes in winter because of the increased use of gas, paraffin lamps, heaters, etc,” said Smile executive director, Hedley Lewis.

“We want to pay tribute to the heroes who are the surgical team and their support and we’ve come together with stakeholders to make children smile. It is fitting that we’re here on Mandela Day at Red Cross Children’s Hospital honouring his memory. We will have surgical intervention this entire week,” he said.

A Smile Week allows surgeons to operate on more children than in a normal theatre schedule and will ease the burden on the state resources for burns.

Most of the children who will be assisted during this Smile Week are from the Western Cape but a six year-old girl from Mpumalanga is one of the young patients.

She sustained flame burns with inhalation to 83% of her body surface area when a fire broke out at her home. She was admitted to the hospital in November 2016, and has been there since.

She has had several reconstructive procedures and survived severe sepsis. The secondary deformities she has suffered will be addressed during the Smile Week which include releasing her lower lip contracture, lasering her scars and other procedures.

“This is just one step on the long journey to recovery that lies ahead for (the child), she will need extensive occupational therapy and psychosocial rehabilitation after the operation, as well as additional surgical procedures in due course which Smile Foundation together with The Avela Foundation will help to facilitate,” said Smile Operations executive director, Moira Gerszt.

“This Smile Week, at the height of winter, includes so many children who need specialised treatment to assist them with their scarring and other burns-related trauma.

“This is very important from a national health perspective, as burn wounds often disfigure children so severely, that their body image is compromised, and they are left psychologically traumatised.”