RODWELL Khomazana, the young Zimbabwean boy who was mauled by a hyena in May, is heading to South Africa for reconstructive surgery.
While fundraisers work around the clock to collect money for Rodwell Khomazana’s hospital care, the nine-year-old boy mauled by a hyena at an all-night church gathering in Zimbabwe is set to arrive in South Africa on 19 June.
Khomazana’s head will be wrapped in bandages, and he will wear a visor on the SA Airlink flight from Harare to Johannesburg.
He will be accompanied by Johannesburg trauma nurse Maqshuda Kajee, medical evacuation expert Dr Sayuren Moonsamy and his mother, Shamiso Mabika.
Khomazana hasn’t had a proper meal since 7 May, when a hyena attacked him, mauling his face while he was sleeping at the Zviratidzo Zvevapostori Apostolic Church. Since then, the youngster has been fed through a tube up his nose.
“After surgery, we will have to teach him how to eat again,” says Kajee.
Mabika says her third-born son’s favourite food is sadza/pap.
This week, while waiting to leave for South Africa, the boy kept up with his English and maths homework in the hospital, sobbing because he misses going to school.
He is a Grade 3 pupil at Manyiri Primary School in Zaka, 340km south of Harare. Khomazana is also a keen footballer, his favourite team being Manchester United.
After the accident, Khomazana was rushed to Harare’s Parirenyatwa Hospital – the largest hospital in Zimbabwe – where surgeons stabilised his open wounds.
In the first few days, patients heard the boy scream in anguish and thrash in his bed as memories of the attack tormented him, with nursing staff having to restrain his arms and sedate him.
A fundraising drive hopes to raise enough money to pay for Rodwell to have facial reconstructive surgery and aftercare.
Speaking to DM168 on 16 June, maxillofacial and microvascular surgeon Dr Wayne Manana of Parirenyatwa Hospital recalls performing life-saving surgery on the boy. Manana was in Johannesburg to meet with medical suppliers when he received word of Khomazana on 8 May. He got an earlier flight back to Harare on 9 May to operate on the boy.
“I flew back to Harare especially for Rodwell on the Sunday and immediately … went into theatre,” says Manana. “So a big thank you to the team who prepared him, so he could go into theatre timeously. It is remarkable that he survived; the deformity, his physical appearance was very severe.”
In a medical report on Khomazana, Manana lists the boy’s injuries. They include total loss of his upper lip, 15% loss of his lower lip, total loss of his external nose and nasal cartilages, loss of both cheeks, partial loss of the frontal skin and loss of the left eyeball.
“The child had very devastating injuries to his face, a great loss of a lot of the soft tissue,” says Manana. “All of the major features of the face were gone, with a few fractures. Initially we took him to theatre to do a very thorough cleaning. We agreed that the priority was to stabilise him, basically to clear the airway to make sure he [could] breathe. My biggest worry was the risk of infection because the wound was open, plus we do not have much information about germs in a hyena’s mouth.”
He says Khomazana was haunted by flashbacks of the incident and had to be sedated: “The first few days we had to sedate him, you can imagine, we had to pin his arms down… He had [flashbacks] of the attack that caused his injuries. People in the ward said he kept on screaming.”
Manana adds that fortunately nursing veteran Sister Chaku Nyamupaguma volunteered to take care of Khomazana’s wounds.
“Sister Chaku came through to dress those big wounds. The other nurses were a bit nervous. They did not know how to go about it. Sister Chaku is not even part of the hospital, but volunteered, and she has looked after him since. So there have been many people looking after him.”
Now that Khomazana is better and can speak a bit, he has come to refer to Chaku as “Gogo Chaku”.
“He is such a cheerful young man. So brave,” says Manana. “He is very motivated and optimistic that things will be okay. Of course, the people around him have been reassuring him that everything will be fine.”
In South Africa, Kajee has been at the heart of the fundraising drive named “Help Rodwell face the world again”.
Even though top South African surgeons have pledged their services to reconstruct Khomazana’s face, a total of R1-million is required for his hospital fees and ongoing care.