Aussie surgeons to give Gazan girl ears


By Mary Gearin | Updated June 2, 2011 | ABC.Net

Dr Andrew Greensmith separates conjoined twins Krishna and Trishna from Bangladesh

Dr Andrew Greensmith, who separated conjoined twins Krishna and Trishna, will help to make Malak’s ears. (AAP: Royal Children’s Hospital)

A Gazan girl born without ears will be treated in Australia by the same surgeon who helped separate conjoined Bangladeshi twins Krishna and Trishna.

Towards Hope, a fledgling charity in Melbourne, has brought five-year-old Malak Al Ghoul across to potentially restore some hearing.

Life in the Gaza Strip is hard enough, but especially so for those with a disability; Malak, one of triplets, was the only one born with a congenital condition called microtia.

Malak has come with her mother and little brother to the home of an Australian Muslim family organised through Towards Hope.

It was an arduous logistical and bureaucratic task to get them to Australia, and a remarkable outcome for a family that had unsuccessfully sought help in Egypt, Israel and Jordan.

Maysaa Al Ghoul says her daughter would not have had a chance of receiving treatment in Gaza.

“There are a lot of people, especially children, who need help in Gaza. Many, many things: medicine, some kind of food,” she said.

“We don’t have these kinds of things in Gaza.”

Medical staff kept Malak away from her mother directly after the birth.

It was only after a week Ms Al Ghoul was allowed to see the girl and discovered the truth.

“It was very shocking for me but when we get her she was very lovely; she was like an angel,” she said.

“She has very wide eyes; she was looking at me. I feel everything is OK.”

Ms Al Ghoul says her daughter can be just as noisy and confident as any other girl her age, even though she is not only deaf but has no ears underneath her brown wavy hair.

“Because she was not able to speak she do everything by herself. I feel she is more stronger than her sister,” she said.

‘Basically caged’

Riyad Aladassi, a nurse from Gaza, has helped children come to Australia through another charity, the Children First Foundation – the same charity that brought out the Bangladeshi conjoined twins Krishna and Trishna.

Mr Aladassi dreamed of setting up his own charity in Gaza to bring children out for surgery but also to send in medical teams.

“We need as many medical teams to go there and operate. Gaza is deprived of freedom of movement,” he said.

“The staff there don’t get a chance to leave or travel for workshops or training. You only travel if you have an urgent medical need and of course this is also subject to the approval of the Israeli army or the Israeli security.

“I know of cases where a one-month-old child was denied access through the Israeli border. Your people are basically caged and I was one of them.”

Australia is one of the few places that can offer both the internal ear reconstruction and plastic surgery that Malak will need.

The head of the Cochlear Implant Clinic at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, Dr Rob Briggs, will team up with the plastic surgeon who operated on the Bangladeshi twins, Dr Andrew Greensmith.

Dr Briggs says he will have two options for making ears.

“[We can] use some form of skeletal support in the shape on an ear which we can make from a patient’s rib cage, out of the material called cartilage which exists in the rib cage,” he said.

“We can carve that into a three-dimensional shape and place it in a pocket made on the side of the scalp and literally shrink-wrap the skin onto it.

“The other option would be to use very advanced plastic implants but still use the patient’s own tissues to cover it.”

The co-founder and president of Towards Hope, Richard Middleton, an anaesthetist in Melbourne, says he is disappointed in the number of medicos who did not want to volunteer their time and talent.

He feels this is because the Palestinian cause is too controversial.

“It’s really quite sad considering that one of our prime focuses is to help others. I’ve been very saddened by the number of people who are nervous about putting up or speaking out,” he said.

Even though Ms Al Ghoul has been told she will have to leave her daughter with her Australian host family for up to a year, she says it will be worth it to see her daughter avoid the limited existence deaf people face in Gaza.

“I feel that it’s not her destiny,” she said.


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