HOPE FOR GIRL WITH NO HAIR
Sithabile Nogoba's wish is to have a full head of hair.
The shy six-year-old bears scars to her head caused by an injury suffered five years ago.
Her mother, Kholeka, said she remembers the bus accident in Bloemfontein that claimed the life of her sister, Thuliswa, "like it was yesterday".
"There was blood everywhere and I was worried that Sithabile would not make it," Nogoba said.
The little girl lost hair-bearing skin on her scalp and bones on her skull, leaving her brain exposed.
Sithabile is one of 19 children who, in the past year, have benefitted from life-changing reconstructive surgery at Sunninghill Hospital, northern Johannesburg.
Last week surgeons inserted an artificial bone in her head to replace the one she lost.
Nogoba said her daughter did not like looking different from other children.
"Her injuries have made her very shy. She endures teases and stares from other children. I keep telling her that one day she will look like her friends with a full head of hair."
Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Martin Kelly said Sithabile would need further surgery as she grows older.
Through the Johannesburg Craniofacial Programme, Sunninghill and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic hospitals perform corrective surgery on children with craniofacial anomalies.
Craniofacial conditions are caused by syndromes, abnormal growths, birth defects and trauma.
Because they affect the soft tissue, facial and skull bones, they often result in disfigurement.
Depending on the complexity of the surgeries, the children can undergo up to seven operations. These are performed by plastic and reconstructive surgeons, maxillofacial surgeons, neurosurgeons and paediatricians.
The programme is sponsored by the Vodacom Foundation through its Tries for Smiles campaign, which donates R25000 for every try scored by an SA team during rugby matches.