In a first for the province, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital and national NGO, the Smile Foundation, are joining forces to bring critical reconstructive surgery to children in need. As such, the first-ever Smile Facial Reanimation Week, supported by The Victor Daitz Foundation, is being held at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital from 26 February to 1 March 2018.

Moebius Syndrome is a complex congenital neurological disorder that can affect multiple cranial nerves. When the seventh cranial nerve, called the facial nerve, is affected there is paralysis of the muscles that bring about all facial movements. It is a rare disorder with an incidence of 1 in 50 000 of all live births in USA. There are no statistics for South Africa. Due to its rarity, few surgeons are exposed to or have shown an interest in treating this condition.

Dr George Psaras as the Medical Director of the Smile Foundation has been growing South Africa’s capabilities by undertaking skill exchange programmes in various academic centres of excellence. This year he will be visiting the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in Durban during this week to perform this complex procedure on two young patients from Gauteng and also deliver lectures on the topic.

“Professor Anil Madaree, head of the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of KZN Natal, based at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, invited Dr Psaras to share his skills in this critical area. Aside from this important transfer of skills to the staff at Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital, the initiative also aims to upskill students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in this rare surgical area. In addition, it is hoped this inaugural Smile Facial Reanimation Week will create awareness in local communities about both Moebius Syndrome and the assistance families can obtain from the Smile Foundation and in future, this hospital,” said Moira Gerszt, Operations Executive Director of the Smile Foundation.

“On behalf of The Victor Daitz Foundation it is a privilege to commemorate our Founder by supporting children in the KZN region with life-changing surgeries. This partnership will enable children to live their lives to their full potential and face the world with a positive self-image,” said Brian Moshal, Managing Trustee of The Victor Daitz Foundation.

Two young girls were identified for the life-changing surgery. They are Boitumelo (7) from Brakpan North, Olwethu (8) from Potchefstroom. The two girls will be operated on over a four-day period, following which they will go into high care for a number of days (up to 10 days). While the surgery is not a high-risk procedure it does take 8 to 12 hours to perform. The surgery needs continuous precision and concentration for this period of time. It also requires two teams of surgeons, one harvesting the gracilis muscle and another working on the face. This collaboration of the two surgical teams working hand in hand complements their academic programme.

“As always, we wish to thank our generous sponsors and all the people involved in contributing to this important initiative. Thank you to The Victor Daitz Foundation for the vital funding that made this week possible, and a special thank you to the Principal Specialist, Dr Mahendra Daya, for his support in putting together this programme,” said Gerszt.