Surgery

S. Africa surgeons to reconstruct face of boy attacked by hyena in Zimbabwe

Rodwell Khomazana, nine, lost his nose, left eye, most of his upper lip, bits of his forehead and other parts of his face when he was attacked by a hyena.
Rodwell Khomazana, nine, lost his nose, left eye, most of his upper lip, bits of his forehead and other parts of his face when he was attacked by a hyena. © AFP/GUILLEM SARTORIO

Plastic surgeons in Johannesburg, South Africa have begun preparing to reconstruct the face of a nine-year-old Zimbabwean boy mauled by a hyena in an attack last month.

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Rodwell Khomazana lost his nose, left eye, most of his upper lip, bits of his forehead and other parts of his face when he was attacked during a night-time church service outside Harare on 2 May.

Doctors in one of the city's main public hospitals did the best they could to patch him up and stabilise his condition, but lacked the resources to fully repair his ravaged face.

Unable to afford specialised surgery only available abroad, his mother contacted medics in neighbouring South Africa, who agreed to operate on him for free in a private Johannesburg clinic.

"When she mentioned the story of this poor child mauled by a hyena I couldn't say no," plastic surgeon Ridwan Mia told journalists last week.

Long road to recovery

Rodwell was flown to Johannesburg on Saturday and greeted by hospital staff singing South Africa's national anthem.

Mia and his team will perform exploratory surgery on Monday, after which they will schedule a complex operation expected to last around 20 hours.

They will use tissue from other parts of his body to reconstruct his jaw, nose, mouth and cheeks. He will also be fitted with a prosthetic eye.

Rodwell "will never have a completely normal, unscarred face", he warned. "But we want to give him something that will at least allow him to be functional and enjoy the things that other kids do."

Donations will cover the costs of hospitalisation, which is expected to last at least a month with several touch up procedures. 

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