Rodwell Khomazana and his mother, Shamiso Mabika, who says she hopes to see her boy smiling again. (Photo: Supplied)
Rodwell Khomazana, the young Zimbabwean boy who was mutilated by a hyena in May, is traveling to South Africa for reconstructive surgery.
First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
As fundraisers work tirelessly to raise money for Rodwell Khomazana’s hospital care, the nine-year-old boy mutilated by a hyena at a nighttime religious rally in Zimbabwe is expected to arrive in South Africa on June 19 .
Khomaza’s head will be wrapped in bandages and he will wear a visor on the SA Airlink flight from Harare to Johannesburg. He will be joined by Johannesburg trauma nurse Maqshuda Kajee, medical evacuation expert Dr Sayuren Moonsamy and his mother Shamiso Mabika.
Khomazana hasn’t had a good meal since May 7, when a hyena attacked him, mutilating his face while he was sleeping at the Zviratidzo Zvevapostori Apostolic Church. The youngster has since been fed through a tube through his nose.
“After the operation, we’ll have to teach her to eat again,” Kajee explains.
Mabika says her third son’s favorite food is sadza, which is Shona for porridge.
This week, while waiting to leave for South Africa, the boy continued his English and math homework at the hospital, sobbing from missing school. He is a grade 3 student at Manyiri Primary School in Zaka, 340 km south of Harare. Khomazana is also an avid footballer, his favorite team being Manchester United.
After the accident, Khomazana was rushed to Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare – Zimbabwe’s largest hospital – where surgeons stabilized his open wounds.
In the first few days, patients heard the boy scream in anguish and struggle in his bed as memories of the attack tormented him, with nurses holding his arms and lulling him to sleep.
Talk to DM168 on June 16, maxillofacial and microvascular surgeon Dr Wayne Manana of Parirenyatwa Hospital remembers performing life-saving surgery on the boy. Manana was in Johannesburg to meet with medical providers when he heard from Khomazana on May 8. He got a previous flight to Harare on May 9 to operate on the boy.
“I came back to Harare especially for Rodwell on Sunday and immediately… I went to the theater,” Manana explains. “So a big thank you to the team who prepared him so that he could enter the theater on time. It is remarkable that he survived; the deformity, his physical appearance was very severe.
In a medical report on Khomazana, Manana lists the boy’s injuries. They include total loss of her upper lip, loss of 15% of her lower lip, total loss of her outer nose and nasal cartilage, loss of both cheeks, partial loss of frontal skin, and loss of head. left eyeball.
“The child had very devastating injuries to the face, a great loss of a lot of soft tissue”, explains Manana. “All the main features of the face were gone, with a few fractures. We initially took him to the theater for a very thorough cleaning. We agreed that the priority was to stabilize it, basically clearing the airways to make sure it [could] breathe. My biggest concern was the risk of infection as the wound was open, and we don’t have much information about the germs in a hyena’s mouth.
He says Khomazana was haunted by the flashbacks of the incident and had to be sedated: “The first few days we had to sedate him, you can imagine, we had to immobilize his arms… [flashbacks] of the attack that caused his injuries. People in the room said he continued to scream.
Manana adds that luckily Sister Chaku Nyamupaguma, a veteran nurse, volunteered to treat Khomazana’s wounds. “Sister Chaku came to heal these big wounds. The other nurses were a little nervous. They didn’t know how to do it. Sister Chaku is not even in the hospital, but has volunteered, and has been caring for him ever since. So there were a lot of people who took care of him.
Now that Khomazana is better and can talk a little, he has come to call Chaku “Gogo Chaku”.
“He’s such a happy young man. So brave, ”says Manana. “He is very motivated and optimistic that things will work out. Of course, people around him reassured him that everything will be fine.
In South Africa, Kajee was at the heart of the fundraising campaign called “Help Rodwell face the world again”.
Even though the best South African surgeons have pledged their services to reconstruct Khomazana’s face, a total of R 1 million is needed for her hospital costs and ongoing care.
Between phone calls to organize the logistics of flights and funds, Kajee explains, “Even though the surgeons will operate during [nothing], we need funding for the theater – for which there is a per-minute rate, and we can’t estimate exactly how long it will stay there. In addition, he will need to be in intensive care [intensive care unit]. He will need a lot of medicine and care to check that his wounds do not become septic. He will need physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, psychological help… ”
After landing on June 19, Khomazana will be transported from OR Tambo International Airport to Mediclinic Sandton, where renowned plastic surgeon Dr. Ridwan Mia will lead a team performing an assessment procedure on June 21.
“The first surgery will be an assessment to determine the extent of the injury,” says Kajee. “Based on what they find, they will confirm a date for the correct reconstruction of her face. “
Manana, who was invited to observe the operation in Johannesburg, said the procedure would be a challenge: “We are seeing cases like this, accidents with wild animals,” he said. “But this one stands out as one of the toughest. Rebuilding will be a challenge, rebuilding something similar to what was there. An upper lip is dynamic, it can move. Recreating this movement is very difficult, a reconstructive nightmare for any surgeon. See, the movement comes from the muscles, and those muscles are gone.
Speaking to DM168 via Zoom last week, Mia said he was ready: “You know, it’s intimidating. It’s a big operation, but I’m looking forward to it. We have so much support and it makes a big difference. He estimated Khomazana’s operation could take a total of 20 hours, adding that in all likelihood they would graft cartilage onto the boy’s rib cage to rebuild his nose, covering it with the skin on his forehead or thigh. .
Mia made headlines in 2011 for her skin transplants on little Pippie Kruger, who suffered third-degree burns over 80% of her body when fire-starter gel exploded at the family home in Limpopo. Two years later, then President Jacob Zuma awarded him the National Order of the Baobab for this work.
Khomazana’s pro bono team also includes pediatrician Dr Kim Barnard; Dr Razvi Ahmed, ear, nose and throat surgeon; the anesthetist Dr Hizir Mukaddam; and Dr Jameel Desai, maxillofacial and oral surgeon.
Kajee points out that questions have been raised about Khomazana’s treatment at a private hospital. “But public hospitals are overloaded,” she said. “Charlotte Maxeke Hospital is closed; it’s Covid and the numbers are increasing. Where do we have to go? How do you ignore this child in the midst of all this? “
Kajee says donations received will be strictly controlled. “We chose an NGO called Meal SA as a partner. [It has] a proven track record and strict controls to ensure funds are well spent and controlled.
She adds that she first heard about Khomazana’s plight through fellow nurses. “I am acting on two feelings. As a nurse, I took it upon myself as a duty. And second, as a mother, it’s an act of love and compassion, ”she says. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Smart Pick n Pay shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores.