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Kenyan girl heads home after U.S. surgeon restores flesh-eaten face

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
6/4/2014 (3 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Ten operations gives 12-year-old girl better chance of living normal life

A flesh-eating bacteria ate away at a young girl's face after she drank from a stream near her remote village in Kenya. Twelve-year-old Saline Atieno's eaten-away face made it difficult for her to speak, eat and even breathe. After living in the U.S. for a year, and undergoing10 plastic surgery operations, Saline is now able to smile with confidence - and now plans to return home to Africa.

Saline will now be enrolled in a private boarding school in Kenya, where she will receive an education, a bed to sleep in and three meals per day - all funded by the Smile Rescue Fund.

Saline will now be enrolled in a private boarding school in Kenya, where she will receive an education, a bed to sleep in and three meals per day - all funded by the Smile Rescue Fund.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
6/4/2014 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: Noma, plastic surgery, Kenya, girl, smile


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - New York doctor Dr. Leon Klempner carried out a series of operations to help rebuild her face over the past year. Saline is the first child to have had her life dramatically changed by the Smile Rescue Fund For Kids, which is a charity dedicated to helping children with facial deformities deemed virtually "untreatable."

Klempner, an orthodontist on the cleft palate team at Stony Brook University Hospital in Stony Brook, New York took pity on Saline's plight.

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After making several mission trips to provide free surgeries to repair cleft palates or other facial deformities in children around the world, Klempner wanted to do more to help those children with the most severe deformities.

When she younger, Saline Atieno

When she younger, Saline Atieno's face was ravaged by a rare flesh-eating bacteria that made it difficult for her to speak, eat and even breathe.


"On every mission I've gone on there's always been one or two kids turned away because they are too severe to be able to treat and that's always bothered me," Klempner says.
Saline was only three years old when she was diagnosed with Noma. The flesh-eating bacteria develops in the mouth and ravages the faces of its victims by destroying the soft and bone tissues of the face.

"Noma attacked her face, ate through her skin, through her upper jaw, destroyed her nose and destroyed her palate.That's the medical part," Klempner said.

"The social part is she was basically a recluse, she had no friends, and she didn't go to school."

Dr. Leon Klempner, an orthodontist on the cleft palate team at Stony Brook University Hospital found

Dr. Leon Klempner, an orthodontist on the cleft palate team at Stony Brook University Hospital founded the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids to help children with facial deformities deemed "untreatable."


Klempner became aware of Saline's plight in 2010, but it took three years of fundraising and navigating bureaucratic barriers before Saline finally arrived in the U.S. for treatment last June.

She was very shy and withdrawn due to her facial condition. "We had to reconstruct a nose, an upper lip and a palate - and that was one big cavity, one big hole," Dr. Alexander Dagum, chief of the plastic and reconstructive surgery division at Stony Brook says.

As Saline's appearance began to improve, her doctors and host family noticed in both her health and self-esteem. She grew six inches taller and learned to speak English.

"Here everyone is welcoming her, telling her she is beautiful, I think that all really played a part of getting her to come out of her shell," Jennifer Crean, who hosted Saline in her home for three months, says.


Saline had her tenth major surgery - to create a nose - in April and then on May 31 she flew back to Kenya. She is now able to breathe normally, speak more clearly and eat without spilling food and drink from her mouth.

"No words can adequately express how I feel. You have not only taught me your language, and fixed my face, you have taught me how it feels to be taken care of and unconditionally loved. I never expected that. Goodbye- for now,' she told Dr. Klempner before leaving.

Saline will now be enrolled in a private boarding school in Kenya, where she will receive an education, a bed to sleep in and three meals per day - all funded by the Smile Rescue Fund.

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