A little boy disfigured by fire on the way to healing

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

A few weeks ago a knock on the head could have killed little Felleng Mahamotse.

Now recovering from life-changing reconstructive surgery in Switzerland, the energetic seven-year-old can look forward to playing with his friends without fear of getting hurt.

A survivor of a shack fire, Felleng underwent surgery at the Zurich University Hospital on January 19. The Grade 2 pupil lost the bones in his forehead when he suffered severe burns to his face when he was barely a month old.

His mother took him to Soweto's Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital but never returned for him. Felleng's injuries left a huge hole in his skull, compelling him to wear a protective helmet when playing with his friends because any hard knock to the head could have been fatal.

A team of specialist surgeons at the Swiss hospital created a new forehead for him - using four sections of his ribs.

"He still has to wear the helmet, but only until he has healed properly," said his caregiver, Abegail Ximba at Children of Fire, an organisation that arranges reconstructive surgery for burn survivors.

Ximba accompanied Felleng to Zurich. She returned to Johannesburg on Monday, leaving Felleng in the care of friends. He is expected to return to school in South Africa in six months.

She said she was impressed by his progress and how brave he was. "Felleng can't help looking at himself in the mirror. He realises he looks different to other boys but he seems happy enough.

"He says he is going to bring back some special Swiss chocolate for his friends at school."