Smiling faces and tangible joy marked the day when the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital celebrated the incredible work of the Smile Foundation on 6 February.
Local celebrities and supporters of the foundation joined the media when they visited the hospital ward where the children who were receiving brand-new smiles.
The parents of the lucky recipients were still overwhelmed by the huge gift their children were receiving from the Smile Foundation. “If I have to try and describe the heroes who work for and support the Smile Foundation I will have to say they are royalty with the hearts of servants,” said Dorcas Thabethe, an assistant teacher who works in Ruimsig and lives in Cosmo City.
“They are kind-hearted and generous people. They are also true modern-day heroes.”
Her 15-month-old baby, Dominique Malusi Mthetwa, was in the operating theatre where doctors were fixing his cleft palate to give him a new smile.
Thabethe said she wasn’t even a bit nervous because the doctors were brilliant. “My son is in good hands.”
She explained that her family has a history of cleft palates and lips.
Tears welled up in her eyes when she spoke about her firstborn child, Malibongwe, who died as a result of complications from a cleft palate when he was nine months old.
“When I held Dominique in my arms the first time and the doctors told me he also had a cleft palate, I was devastated.”
Thabethe said she and her husband Lyton were desperate and didn’t know what to do when Dominique was born. An operation would have cost them more than R50 000. Fortunately, they were referred to the Smile Foundation.
“The Smile Foundation people sat us down and explained to us that Dominique’s operation will be done by doctors who specialise in fixing cleft palates and lips and the best news was that they would do it for free. We didn’t have to pay a cent. We now have a lifetime of smiles ahead of us.”
The Smile Foundation is a South African non-government organisation, based in 11 academic hospitals around the country, that assists children with any facial abnormality to receive corrective plastic surgery within South Africa.
The foundation helps children who suffer from treatable facial deformities including cleft lips and palates, burn victims, Moebius syndrome (facial paralysis) and other conditions. It also invests in medical teams at hospitals through skills development programmes and also assists hospitals by purchasing equipment for use by its department of plastic and reconstructive surgery.
To date, the foundation has assisted more than 2 500 children with the gift of a smile. When Nelson Mandela was the chief patron of the foundation, his wish for them was to assist as many children as possible from all over South Africa.
Details: 0861 ASMILE; 011 325 6480.