Local girl with no nose helped by school, doctor and SMILE
At a meeting late last year of trustees of Curry’s Post Primary School, Prinicpal Patrick Ndlovu spoke about a seven-year-old pupil “without a nose”. She had not been attending school as her parents were afraid she would be teased.
Patrick said he had encouraged her parents to send Nomfundo Mbanjwa to the no-fee school, and had spoken to all the learners about accepting her, which they have done.
The principal of this excellent rural school was delighted that Nomfundo, which loosely means ‘educated’, would not miss out on schooling but remained worried about her future.
For a while the members of the Curry’s Post Educational Trust – all locals who work on a voluntary basis for the NGO created in 1997 to build and support the school through fundraising, property maintenance, educational support, management and financial planning – were bemused.
Without having seen the little girl the only thing that came to mind was The Smile Foundation, a charity that helps children with facial abnormalities such as cleft lips and-or palates to receive free corrective plastic and reconstructive surgery.
Trustee Sas Armstrong met Nomfundo, a charming, shy little girl. She took photos and forwarded them to Smile. There was a rapid and positive response. But the year was almost over and the local plastic surgeon would be away until February 2013, so everything was put on hold until then.
In February 2013 they visited a plastic surgeon in Pietermaritzburg who thought he had seen this child three to four years before at Albert Luthuli Hospital. He also said that this was an extremely complicated case and that several experts were not prepared to go there.
He said he would liaise with a colleague, a world famous plastic surgeon in Holland. Nomfundo’s young age was also a complicating factor. So the trustee and the little girl went home disappointed.
The good doctor
Everything went quiet for a month or so, when Sas received an e-mail from Smile saying they had located an ocularist in Durban North. Sas, Nomfundo and her Gogo (grandmother) drove to Durban North on a Monday for a two-hour appointment.
Peter Furber’s main work involves reconstruction of eyes, though in his office they saw prostheses of ears, hands and noses. Framed on the walls were several articles covering his amazing work restoring dignity and self-confidence to burn victims and others.
Peter made a mold of Nomfundo’s face, with a lot of care and attention to detail. This then had to dry so their next appointment was on Wednesday. This was 20 minutes, as Peter just needed to match the silicone making up the nose to Nomfundo’s skin colour – again with great care.
As they had driven from Curry’s Post for an appointment of just 20 minutes, Sas took Nomfundo and Gogo to the beach front – neither had seen the sea before. Quite a bit of encouragement was needed to get Nomfundo to put her feet in the water.
They walked on the pier to inspect the fishermen and were astounded watching the surfers on their ‘planks’. They admired the sand-artists and bought bead bracelets as momentos of the great adventure.
The three were back in Durban again the following day, as the silicone must be fitted properly before it dries completely.
The transformation is amazing, although with young unblemished skin, the prosthesis is more obvious than for an older person. So Peter suggested approaching an optometrist in the hope that frames with plain glass could be supplied, at cost.
Moffatt Optical in Howick were very enthusiastic and came to the party, providing Nomfundo with a pair of spectacles free of charge.
Back at school
So Nomfundo is back at school, now attracting more curiosity because she HAS a nose, although interest should wear off within a week or two. The prosthesis will be a bit insecure for about a month but just needs to be pushed back in place.
Nomfundo has a small tub of glue which has to be applied to the rim of the prosthesis each morning. After a month the skin and glue will be more accepting of each other. However, the colour will change over time and, as Nomfundo grows, the prosthesis will have to be replaced approximately every two years.
Once she is 18 years old she will have the choice as to whether she’d like surgery or to continue with her silicone nose.