Hawanatu Fofonah

Hawanatu Fofonah, age two, was happy to receive two dresses and two pairs of shorts a few days before Christmas.  Hawanatu has been living with her mother, who is one of several patients being treated for abscessed jaws or oral tumors through Africa Surgery’s oral surgery program in Freetown, Sierra Leone.  Eight of these patients, including Hawanatu’s mother, live a distance from Freetown and therefore are being lodged and fed at Africa Surgery’s facility until fully recovered.

The dresses and shorts are part of a consignment of girls’ and babies’ clothing made by volunteers who donated them to the Filippini Sisters at Villa Walsh Girls’ Academy in Morristown, New Jersey, who in-turn donated four boxes of the clothing to Africa Surgery’s container-supply drive last September.  A few very-poor girls wore new clothes for the first time this Christmas and in the New Year. 

Mariama Koroma

Mariama Koroma was born under less-than-adequate conditions, with no trained midwife.  The delivery left her with a large umbilical hernia.  At age 2 and ½ Mariama stopped walking after her spine developed a kyphosis deformity, caused by a tuberculosis infection that paralyzed her legs.  

After an Africa Surgery-sponsored six-months regimen of anti-TB medications, her spine stabilized and stopped paining her. She began to walk again last July. But her hernia was still a constant source of discomfort and some pain, and the danger of it strangulating and ending her life was always there. 

Africa Surgery paid for Mariama’s hernia surgery at the Holy Spirit Hospital in November.  She is now out of pain and ready to go on with her life.

Kaday Conteh

Kaday Conteh lost her mother when she was three. Her father, a poor farmer, had never been able to send Kaday or her two older sisters and older brother to school. Kaday’s neck was mysteriously fractured when she was left in the care of neighbors for two weeks around the time of her mother’s illness. Kaday then remained in the care of her grandmother, who is blind, while her father and siblings did farm work

By age five when Kaday was first seen by Africa Surgery, she could not hold her head up straight, she was partially paralyzed on the right side of her body so had difficulty standing or walking, and seemed to be is some pain. Africa Surgery fit Kaday with a neck brace in the hope that it might help straighten her neck as she continued to grow. After eight months Kaday had grown a bit and her neck was much straighter, her pain seemed over, and she had regained the complete use of the right side of her body. 

In September, 2018, Africa surgery had Kaday enrolled in the local primary school in her village, and found a donor who committed to sponsoring Kaday’s schooling for $200 per year through Africa Surgery’s Student Sponsorship Program. Kaday is making progress in her school work with help from a Sierra Leonean ASI team member who tutors Kaday after school. It is hoped that Kaday will become the first person in her family to be able to read and to write.

Kadiatu Conteh

On October 25, when Africa Surgery first saw Kadiatu Conteh, a 27 year-old mother of one, we feared that the large tumor that was blocking most of her mouth might kill her. We needed to get her a passport and have her cleared for travel on a commercial flight to Kenya, where her tumor could be excised by surgeon specialists.  Fortunately, Dr. Don Davis, the oral surgeon in Freetown, Sierra Leone, determined that because the 14-month old tumor seemed to be benign, it did not involve her bone, jawbone, teeth, or tongue. He could remove it himself.  At first, however, it was not possible to operate on her because of  the level hemoglobin in her blood. 

After lots of liquid dietary supplements and a few blood transfusions, Kadiatu was finally ready for surgery. Her tumor was removed on December 24.  Kadiatu will need some further reconstructive surgery, but her prognosis is very good and her gratitude, expressed with few words, is immense.

Betty Brima & Lamine Sesay

In January, 2019,when a team of reconstructive plastic surgeons from the Paris-based organization Doctors of the World (MDM) (www.doctorsoftheworld.org) visited the Seventh Day Adventist hospital in Masanaga, Sierra Leone.  

Betty, 3 days after surgery, was too sore to smile, but after her lip has healed and her stitches have been removed, she will have reason to smile a lot.  
Betty Brima, age 4, before surgery to repair her cleft lip.  

Betty Brima, age four, and Lamine Sesay, age 20, had their cleft lips repaired. Lamine’s palate is also cleft, however this will have to be repaired at a later date, after the lip has healed and the surgeons return.  

Though not a life-threatening condition, having an untreated cleft lip and palate affects a person’s speech, social life and status.

Lamine Sesay before surgery. He had already lived 20 years with his cleft lip and palate.
Lamine, 3 days after having his cleft lip repaired.  We will have to have Lamine’s cleft palate repaired when a surgical team from MDM returns to Sierra Leone.

Also, in Sierra Leone this still sometimes believed to have been caused by a devil who wants the baby’s life and who will cause misfortune to the whole village if the child is not left out in the bush for the devil to take.  A similar belief is that God made a mistake, and if the baby is left in the bush, God will take him or her away and the child will be returned without the deformity when the mother gives birth again.  

So, when a mother comes to us with a baby with a cleft, one can assume that she is a very courageous person, possibly defying the wishes of the elders of her family and village.