Boy disfigured in chimp attack set to get rare reconstructive face surgery
Published Saturday, January 9, 2016 10:17PM EST
Doctors at a New York City hospital are planning a series of surgeries they hope can help a young boy from the Congo regain some "semblance of a normal life," after he survived a horrific chimpanzee attack that left him permanently scarred and his younger brother dead.
Two years ago, Dunia Sibomana, now eight, and his family were attacked by a group of wild chimpanzees near his home village in the central African nation.
His younger brother was killed in the attack, while Dunia's face was left extremely disfigured. The eight-year-old lost both his upper and lower lips, and has extensive scarring on the right side of his face.
The extent of the damage made it impossible for Dunia to close his mouth, and thus extremely difficult to eat or drink. The boy currently weighs just 46 pounds.
To make matters worse, he was abandoned by his family, friends and fellow villagers, causing him to become withdrawn and refuse to go to school.
But volunteers heard of Dunia's plight and referred him to the Smile Rescue Fund for Kids, which brought him to the Stony Brook University Hospital in New York City to get the surgery he needs to reconstruct his face, so he can eat and speak normally again.
"We expect to get functioning lips for him. Will they be his real lips? No. But we're hoping they will be lips that look normal, and allow him to eat properly and speak properly," said Dr. Alexander Dagum, the hospital's chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery,
Dagum said the procedure will involve at least "three major" surgeries, as well as a couple of other minor operations. It will also involve grafting skin from Dunia's arms, a technique that has never been done before with a child.
Dunia's first surgery is scheduled for Monday, when he will undergo an eight-hour operation.
Doctors hope this will be a promising first step on Dunia's road to recovery, as he tries to get back to being a regular kid.
"We're hoping that after the surgery, he'll reintegrate into society, perhaps go back to school, but at least have some semblance of a normal life," said Dr. Leon Klempner, an orthodontist and founder of Smile Rescue Fund for Kids.
With a report from CTV News' Medical Correspondent Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip