Thu Oct 27 14:50:24 SAST 2016

SA surgeons save Congolese boy's arm

By unknown | Feb 26, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Louise McAuliffe

Louise McAuliffe

A year ago, 11-year-old Kennedy Masengo faced an agonising future. His arm was crushed in an accident at a flour mill in his home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While performing a chore for his mother Antoinette, Kennedy's right arm was caught in a grain crusher.

The immediate diagnosis from doctors in the DRC was amputation. But his mother was reluctant and she sought an alternative outcome.

Doctors at Kinshasa general hospital put the family in touch with the Vodacom Foundation, which donated R273 000 to help the young boy.

Today, thanks to microsurgery by South African specialist surgeons, Kennedy has regained substantial movement in his arm.

Talking about his initial assessment of the damage when he visited Kennedy in the DRC, Professor Theo le Roux said it was a complex situation.

"It would probably have been better to have had the arm amputated straight away. It was now very difficult to tell a patient to amputate when he has seen his arm alive for the last six months.

"I could see that he needed reconstructive surgery and I knew a surgeon in South Africa. I knew Dr Franz Birkholtz could perform the procedure," Le Roux said.

Kennedy and his mother arrived in South Africa in September 2008. He has undergone two surgical procedures and has had extensive physiotherapy.

Doctors believe that Kennedy will eventually be able to use his arm for support only, to lean on it. But this is a far cry from the limp limb it was before the surgery.

The boy has received occupational therapy to change his hand dominance from his right to his left hand.

Described as a quick learner by his therapist Sister Liz, Kennedy now writes very well with his left hand.

A very emotional and tearful Kennedy thanked the key role players in his recovery at a special farewell party held this week at the Opikopi Guesthouse in Pretoria.

Kennedy and his mother will be going back to the DRC on Sunday after a six-month stay in South Africa.

The microsurgery involved operating with a microscope so that surgeons could identify tiny blood vessels and nerves which they could subsequently re-attach to bone and tissue replacement.

This procedure increases the possibility of the patient regaining feeling and even movement in the damaged body part. The main procedure involved transferring a bone flap from Kennedy's lower leg to reconstruct the skeletal support in his forearm.


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