The South African public has been urged to support Smile Foundation in providing desperately needed care to patients and their families, as well as in addressing the growing backlog of children in urgent need of life changing surgery as soon as it is deemed safe.

All elective surgeries have been postponed across not only South Africa, but globally, to ensure patient safety and enable hospitals to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only urgent oncology and trauma cases have received surgery during lockdown, resulting in a significant backlog of elective surgeries, including plastic and reconstructive surgery for children in desperate need.

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

“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. Unfortunately, this situation is completely beyond everyone’s control, and as South Africa hits its peak of the COVID-19 virus it is unclear when elective surgeries will be allowed.”

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To help alleviate the backlogs and in order for Smile Foundation to continue providing urgent assistance to these children and their families, the organisation is calling on members of the public to take part in giving these children the chance to smile.

Smile Foundation has created a raffle where your name will be entered into a draw for R100 per ticket. Participants stand the chance of winning an incredible R 100 000 cash prize.

“With your help, Smile Foundation will be able to offer these children an opportunity to live a better life. While delaying the surgeries is absolutely necessary for the safety of all patients, they mean that these already vulnerable children will face increased challenges. We’re calling on members of the South African public to help us to continue to provide critical support to these children and their families during these unprecedented times while they wait for their much-needed surgeries.”

Lewis says the postponement of these surgeries has had a significant psychological impact on the patients as well as their families, and in a number of 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.”

He says among the urgent cases the organisation has been advised that a number of the patients have not arrived for scheduled surgeries because they are too afraid of contracting COVID-19. 

One of the surgeons who works extensively with Smile Foundation says, “We anticipate that there will be a Covid generation of patients who may not have received their surgeries timeously or needed revision and could not because of the situations that are completely out of the control of anyone.”

An example of how Lockdown has impacted patients, is the story of patient Rhiaadra, a 2-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 2020. This specific surgery aimed to make more space for her brain to protect her eyes because there is currently no protection due to the shape of her skull. Given Lockdown and the steep rise in Covid cases countrywide, the surgery has been provisionally rescheduled for September 2020.

The raffle draw date is on World Smile Day, Friday 2nd October 2020. To enter, please click here https://smilefoundationsa.org/2020-raffle/ or visit www.smilefoundation.co.za. Terms and Conditions apply.