Over the past few months, it emerged that the original pediatric plastic surgeon who had agreed to perform M.’s surgery was unfortunately unable to follow through with the surgery. Although this set back was felt as an immediate disadvantage by the whole HopeCore team and M.’s family, in eventuality the change of course that this development led to was surprisingly positive for M…

It was around this time, namely July 2015, that HopeCore gained a new member, myself; my name is Maeve and I am a doctor from New Zealand. I joined HopeCore as the Clinical Fellow and within the first few weeks of my placement I became extremely familiar with M.’s case. Almost immediately after coming on board, I began to research alternative plastic surgeons and charities that could possibly help M. to have her operation.

Luckily, I came across FORTIS (Foundation of Reconstructive International Surgery), founded and run by Dr. Tilman Stasch, a Plastic Surgeon who is also the Director of Valentis Clinic (now Vitality Fountain Clinic), a clinic for skin health, plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine in Nairobi, Kenya. From the get-go, the Dr. Stasch was incredibly inviting, willing to engage, and hugely receptive to building a relationship with HopeCore. FORTIS provides pro bono surgical work for individuals who require extensive surgery but cannot afford it. One of their projects (…) has been running for over 13 years and offers free Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery to children and adults from all over Kenya. Shortly after HopeCore made contact with Valentis Clinic (now Vitality Fountain Clinic), Dr. Tilman Stasch very kindly agreed to do M.’s surgery, which not only thrilled me, but also delighted the entire HopeCore community and M… Dr. Tilman Stasch is a qualified Plastic, Reconstructive, Hand and Aesthetic Surgeon who (…) works at the Valentis Clinic (now Vitality Fountain Clinic), in Nairobi, Kenya.

In November 2015, I accompanied M., her mother R., and grandmother to appointments with Dr. Stasch and his colleague, Dr. Nangole, in Nairobi, Kenya. Dr. Nangole is a lecturer in the Department of Surgery at the University of Nairobi and works at Kenyatta Hospital. HopeCore is very grateful to Dr. Nangole for agreeing to perform M.’s surgery at Kenyatta National Hospital with Dr. Stasch. Given the extensive nature of M.’s surgery, it was advised that she might require a planned admission to ICU, as well as rigorous follow-up of her wound in the community upon discharge. Hence it became apparent that it would be important for M. and her family to have NHIF (National Health Insurance Funding) prior to receiving the surgery. Ultimately this meant that M.’s surgery was pushed back and scheduled for January 2016; the date that M.’s NHIF insurance would come into effect.

On Tuesday 19th January 2016, R., M., and myself attended an outpatient appointment at Kenyatta Hospital, and immediately booked an admission for elective surgery on Thursday 21st January 2016. The outcome of the day was wildly emotional for R. because the surgery had been pending for such a long time – in fact, there were even a few tears of joy when it was finally realized! M. too was very excited and being the fashion-conscious 12-year-old that she is, mentioned that ‘she wanted to stop wearing only turtlenecks’ which she wore to hide the scarring on her neck. For myself, seeing R. and M…’s reaction, made all the emails, all the hours spent at Kenyatta hospital, and all the days travelling to and from appointments in Nairobi (as well as the many three and a half hour Matatu journeys from Chogoria to Nairobi!), become absolutely worthwhile.

On the morning of the 21st of January 2016, I visited M. in the ward prior her surgery. I was amazed by how calm and collected M. was – her bravery never ceases to amaze me! The surgery was difficult but successful, and after approximately 8 hours, a free flap was created from tissues taken from M.’s upper thighs. The surgeons used Microsurgery to connect the blood vessels of the tissue to the arteries and veins in M.s neck, for the transplanted tissue to grow in the gap left when the strong scars and contractures were taken off. In addition, the pressure of the contractures pulling down M.’s jaw, which had caused her jaw to become dislocated over time, was finally corrected during the operation with the help of maxillofacial surgeon, Dr. Vilembwa from Kenyatta Hospital.

Following her surgery, M. spent a few days as planned in Kenyatta ICU and was then discharged back to the Plastics ward, 4D, at Kenyatta Hospital. Whilst in this ward, Dr. Stasch and Dr. Nangole came to visit M. and were incredibly pleased with the progress of the wound. She was officially discharged from hospital around Monday 22nd February 2016.

M… is currently being looked after by R. who lives in Nairobi so that she is close to Kenyatta Hospital while the wound is still healing. I continue to visit M. intermittently and stay in close contact with her mother to check on her progress.  We are hoping by the time she is seen in the Plastic Surgery Outpatient Clinic at Kenyatta Hospital, approximately 2 weeks from today, that she will be fit to return home to school and life in Chogoria.

I would like to extend my deepest thanks to Dr. Tilman Stasch, Dr. Nangole, Lecturer in the Department of Surgery at the University of Nairobi and Plastic Surgeon at Kenyatta Hospital, and Dr. Vilembwa, Maxillofacial Surgeon at Kenyatta Hospital for their assistance in M.’s operation. I would also like to thank all the people who helped me in this journey from Winnie Ahero, Clinic Coordinator, to the security guards at Kenyatta Hospital who gave me a chair and newspaper when I arrived there at 6am for an 8am appointment (anyone who knows Nairobi traffic will understand this!). I would also like to thank M.’s family for their support. To all these people I want to express gratitude of behalf of Village HopeCore International for helping us make this surgery a reality for M…