Lianda is 8 years old, and lives in a poor rural village on an island in the Solomon Islands group. She is a sweet, pretty little girl, full of fun and laughter like any other 8 year old, despite the medical problems she faces living with an Encephalocele.
Encephalocele (en-SEF-a-lo-SEEL) is one of a group of birth defects known as neural tube defects (NTD).
The neural tube is the structure in a growing baby that closes to form the spinal cord and brain. Encephalocele occurs when the neural tube does not close properly. The baby’s brain is not completely covered by the skull. In some cases, part of the brain is sticking out of the skull in a sac.
On request of ROMAC (Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children), Reconstructive Surgeons Glenn Bartlett and Jonathan Wheeler from the Institute, combining with Neurosurgeon Peter Heppner and Anaesthetist Gerry Willemsen brought their combined expertise together, at no charge, to give Lianda a whole new view of life.
Leaving her small rural village without her mum to fly to New Zealand was exciting, but it was also daunting for Lianda (who speaks no English) and her Aunty Eileen to make the 3 ½ hour 3394 km flight – knowing no-one in New Zealand and facing a big 3 hour surgery.
And Big Surgery it was. Says Jonathan Wheeler: “A very challenging aspect of Lianda’s care was that the encephalocele was positioned very low, meaning we had to go entirely through her nose rather than use the traditional head incision. This is more challenging surgery to manage, but it will give her a better overall result”.
Mr Peter Heppner, Auckland Neurosurgeon did a very careful and precise job to prevent the leakage of any brain fluid. With the outpouching of the brain so close to the nose, extreme care had to be taken not to go through into the nasal cavity, risking infection.
Thankfully, all went well. After the surgery Lianda recovered at Auckland’s Ascot Hospital, and with the amazing recovery power that children seem to possess, she was out of hospital in 3 days, smiling!.
Mr Bartlett says “It’s such a pleasure to be involved with the care of children like Lianda. To be able to make such a difference in another human beings life is a wonderful experience, and it is especially touching when you know that there is no other way she would have been able to have this surgery”.
This is the 4th case the surgeons from NZIPCS have undertaken with ROMAC, and their skill and dedication was recognized by the Rotarians with the award of the Paul Harris Fellowship.
If you want to join us in supporting ROMAC help other children in the pacific region, you can find their website here.