Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor
A nine-year-old girl from Ruvinga village in Buhera has been given a lifeline after an aggressive tumour which was covering half of her face was successfully removed at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare.
What started as an insect bite became a nightmare for 11-year-old Vongai Ruvinga as it grew into a tumour covering half of her face.
This left her parents desperate and in search of answers as they moved from one faith healer to the next.
“At first at looked like she had been bitten by mago on the cheek when herding cattle. After a week the pimple started growing so we asked around and others said it was rutsinga so we asked around for help,” said her father Mr Ngonidzashe Ruvinga.
“I went everywhere to traditional and faith healers but the problem continued to get worse.”
“I was then referred to another doctor in Gutu who then referred me to some doctors in Harare, so, I came back and tried to look for money to go to Harare.”
“That’s when I saw some people from world vision who were distributing food. That’s when they asked about Vongai and they offered to assist her,” he went on.
Vongai’s life also became miserable with the grade 5 student dropping out of school because of stigma.
“It was now difficult for her especially at school, other children would laugh at her. She was no longer comfortable with hanging around her age mates and this pained us as her parents,” noted Vongai’s father.
Her misery, however, turned into joy after the tumour was successfully removed by a team of Doctors from Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals led by Dr Wayne Manana, a Specialist Oral Maxillo facial surgeon.
“The procedure that was done for Vongai as you can see from the CT scan the tumor was involving the entire half of the face, so essentially we had to remove this half of the face,” said Dr Manana.
“The challenge is the flow of the eye socket, once you take out the flow immediately we know that the eye will collapse straight into the mouth. So that’s when we then got support from world vision to buy mesh, it’s called a titanium mesh or fence like device to support the eyeball,” Dr Manana went on.
“Then we had to cover the mesh using the muscle of chewing which come from this region called the temporal region so we had to swing that to be able to support the eye so that’s what has been done.”
“This tumor has been there for nearly five years now. So, this is a benign locally aggressive tumor so it’s not a cancer, but anything that happens in the face because of the anatomical region.”
“The face is the identity that’s what we look at and the bones are very thin around the face so it tends to grow very fast so we consider it to have a malignant or aggressive behaviour even though it’s not a cancer so we treat is also aggressively, added the doctor.
Although treatment is still work in progress, Vongai’s father, Ngonidzashe Ruvinga is thankful.
“I had lost all hope that my daughter will ever get operated. She was operated on the 11th of April and when I look at her now my heart is at peace,” added Vongai’s father.
While the tumour has been removed and the eye socket constructed, what is left is the reconstruction of the upper jaw so that the 11-year-old girl can retain her speech and eat properly.
What is even more remarkable is that all this is being done by local doctors at a public hospital.