Doctors bring back smiles

Petunia Maela, 13, of Primrose Hill is one of the children that are undergoing facial reconstruction surgery at the Johannesburg General Hospital. Pic. Tebogo Monama. 08/2007. © Sowetan.
Petunia Maela, 13, of Primrose Hill is one of the children that are undergoing facial reconstruction surgery at the Johannesburg General Hospital. Pic. Tebogo Monama. 08/2007. © Sowetan.

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

When Petunia Maela was just six weeks old, she was disfigured when a woman threw boiling water on her.

As a result she has not been able to smile for 12 years. Her burns were so serious she spent nine months in hospital.

But yesterday Maela and 39 other children had their smiles returned.

Thanks to the Johannesburg General Hospital and the Smile Foundation, they all received reconstructive surgery to their faces.

The hospital conducted the operation for free as part of the Smile Foundation's Smile Week.

Maela's aunt, Suzan, said: "We were not sure that she was going to live after she was burnt.

"The worst thing is that the woman who attacked her was fined a meagre R100."

Maela, who received 100 get-well- soon cards from her classmates at Leicester Road Primary School, said she was grateful to the Smile Foundation.

"People used to tease me and now it is going to stop," she said.

Tim Christofides, a surgeon with the foundation since its inception in 2004, said: "The important thing is to see a child smile and be reintegrated into society."

Miss Teen South Africa Zizo Beda said: "People have always told me I have a beautiful smile.

"Being part of this project gave me the opportunity to learn the importance of a smile."

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