A 9-year-old Zimbabwean boy Rodwell Nkomazana has a shot at a normal life, again, after a horrific hyena attack left him with half of his face missing.
It takes a village to raise a child and sometimes that village comes from thousands of kilometers away, and consists of committed surgeons, passionate nurses and generous international donors. Nine-year-old Rodwell Nkomazana was asleep at an all-night church service when the unthinkable happened. The little boy was attacked and mauled by a hyena outside Harare, in Zimbabwe.
The medical team at Parirenyatwa Hospital in Harare, where he received his initial treatment, did all they could to save his life and stabilise him. However, due to a lack of resources and expertise, it was all they could do.
With half of his face missing, including an eye, his upper lip, his nose and part of his forehead, Rodwell was set for a life full of challenges. Not only would he have lost his childhood, but he would have probably spent most of his time in seclusion — isolated from the rest of society.
Thanks to the donations received from all around the world, Rodwell finally arrived in South Africa where a team of healthcare workers including plastic surgeons, dental surgeons and paediatricians are assembled to help him begin his journey towards a normal life.
Speaking to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), renowned plastic surgeon and head of Rodwell's medical team Dr Ridwaan Mia said they had a difficult journey ahead.
"A daunting task lies ahead, his injuries are quite hectic. The hyena basically took off all of his nose, he lost his eye in the process, part of his forehead, most of his upper lip, and a bit of the lower lip as well and the cheeks. So there is lots of work ahead for us, but we have a very good team of doctors who have joined us," Mia said.
Everyone on the team will be working pro bono. It was not only the amazing healthcare workers who contributed. Lancet Laboratories also showed up to the party and offered their services for free.
"When Lancet Laboratories heard about Rodwell Nkomazana being mauled by a hyena, we unhesitatingly agreed to assist with all the necessary pathology investigations pro bono," said Lancet in a statement released on Twitter.
Upon his arrival on Sunday, Rodwell was given a warm welcome by the staff at Mediclinic Sandton, in Johannesburg. According to News24, healthcare workers lined the halls and sang the South African national anthem.
On Monday, June 21, Rodwell underwent an exploratory surgery to assess the extent of the damage to this face. More in-depth surgeries are expected to take place throughout this week.
"Much assistance is needed in terms of funding for the child to get therapy afterwards, to help him recuperate and rehabilitate. … I think there is going to be quite a bit of occupational and physiotherapy to follow and also psychiatric help for mom as well as the child," Dr Mia told the SABC.
Wildlife attacks are not entirely unheard of in Zimbabwe. According AA News, at least 24 people have been killed and 21 others injured by wild animal attacks since the start of 2020. Most of these are due, in part, to competition for resources between human beings and wildlife.
To assist with costs related to Rodwell's healing journey, donations can be made to:
Account name: MEALSA
FNB Account Number: 6284 989 7197
Branch Code: 250655
While Western countries are speeding ahead with their vaccination programmes, Africa and the rest of the global South are still lagging far behind. Not for too long if all goes well according to the World Health Organisation!