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Red Cross changes the lives of burn victims

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By Rachel Mohamed

A ten-year-old boy who was left scarred with severe burn wounds to his body has a reason to smile after he underwent a life-changing reconstructive surgery in Cape Town last week. Chrissie Maredi from Mpumalanga sustained 44% critical burn wounds to his body from the neck down, after a fire was ignited while playing with his cousin in the backyard of his home. His cousin fetched petrol and poured it over the fire, and as a result, Chrissie was injured in the blaze. Eight days later, Chrissie was sent to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital where he underwent three months of treatment in their specialised Burns Unit.

On Wednesday, Chrissie underwent reconstructive surgery and laser treatment at Red Cross Hospital as part of the NGO, the Smile Foundation’s Smile Week.
The principal communications officer Dwayne Evans described the surgery as a success.

“Doctors were able to release contractions on his neck and wrist which will greatly improve his mobility in the future,” said Evans

Addressing a media briefing before performing the delicate procedure, plastic surgeon Dr. Gary Dos Passos said he was optimistic that the child’s wounds would improve.

“…We will release less severe scars over other joints to improve their movement. Finally, we will laser his scars to improve their texture.”

Dr Gary Dos Passos with Chrissie

Dr Dos Passos said they handle up to 4 000 burn visits per year and in most cases, the fires are preventable. He said burns are one of the leading causes of injuries to children and are most prevalent under the age of five.

Chrissie’s mother Rebecca recalled the day the fire happened, a day his life changed dramatically.

“I really didn’t believe it when they kept on telling me that Chrissie got badly burnt in the fire, from the face, neck. He didn’t look good at all,” said the 39-year-old soft-spoken mother, Rebecca.

“We went to Lydenburg hospital then moved to Rob Ferreira Hospital in Nelspruit where we stayed for 8 days,” she said, adding that it took a year for Chrissie to get confirmation from Red Cross Children’s Hospital about receiving the operation.

Chrissie and his mom Rebecca

Rebecca said while it has been an incredibly tough road, she is grateful her son is alive and amazed by how far he has come.

The event is a joint venture from Smile Foundation and South African pharmaceutical company, Adcock Ingram through Smile Week. Chrissie is a second case burn victim out of a total of 10 children in need of a life-changing reconstructive surgery during Smile Week.

Other surgeries scheduled to be performed include cleft palate repair for three of the children, including a 10-month-old baby, tissue expansion in the leg and scalp, lip revision, corrective septorhinoplasty, and skin and fat grafts.

Smile Week has been in existence now for 19 years and continues to help transform the lives of more than 3500 children. The late Nelson Mandela has been supporting Smile Foundation and wanted many children especially those in need of surgery to assisted by the foundation. VOC


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