Note: This page will be constantly added to with updates on Moreen’s progress. We were given consent by her primary caregiver to share this information and post all photos you see on this page, so that her story can be shared with others. Feel free to share this page and tag #MoreensStory so that more people can be inspired by this twelve-year-old girl.
17 March 2016
It has been one year since our last update. We are deeply sorry that we have not kept all of you following Moreen’s Story updated with all of the progress being made. Though there has been silence we have been busy.
Since our last update, it emerged that the original paediatric plastic surgeon who had agreed to perform Moreen’s surgery was unfortunately unable to travel to Kenya. Although this set back was felt as a disappointment by the whole HopeCore team and Moreen’s family, in eventuality the change of course that this development led to was surprisingly positive for Moreen.
Around the time we received this news, July 2015, HopeCore gained a new member, myself; my name is Maeve Hume-Nixon and I am a doctor from New Zealand. I joined HopeCore as the Clinical Fellow and within the first few weeks of my placement I became extremely familiar with Moreen’s case. Almost immediately after coming on board, I began to research alternative plastic surgeons and charities that could possibly help Moreen to have her operation.
After much research, I came across FORTIS (Foundation of Reconstructive International Surgery), founded and run by Dr Tilman Stasch, a Plastic Surgeon who is also the Director of Valentis Clinic, a clinic for skin health, plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine in Nairobi, Kenya. From the get-go, the Dr Stasch was incredibly inviting, willing to engage, and hugely receptive to building a relationship with HopeCore. FORTIS provides pro bono surgical work for individuals who require extensive surgery but cannot afford it. One of their projects, the Professor Pratt Surgery Project, founded by Prof S. Khainga, Chair of the Kenyan Society of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (KSPRAS) has been running for over 13 years and offers free Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery to children and adults from all over Kenya. Shortly after HopeCore made contact with Valentis Clinic, Dr Tilman Stasch very kindly agreed to do Moreen’s surgery, which not only thrilled me, but also delighted the entire HopeCore community and Moreen. Dr Tilman Stasch is a qualified Plastic, Reconstructive, Hand and Aesthetic Surgeon who divides his time between acting as a Consultant Plastic Surgeon in Germany and working at the Valentis Clinic in Nairobi, Kenya. Initially, Dr Stasch was hopeful that Moreen’s surgery could be completed as part of the Professor Pratt Surgery Project in August 2015; However, due to complicated circumstances the project was unable to take place in 2015.
In November 2015, I accompanied Moreen, her mother Rose, and grandmother to appointments with Dr Stasch and his colleague, Dr Nangole, in Nairobi, Kenya. Dr Nangole is a lecturer in the Department of Surgery at the University of Nairobi and also works at Kenyatta Hospital. HopeCore is very grateful to Dr Nangole for agreeing to perform Moreen’s surgery at Kenyatta National Hospital with Dr Stasch. Given the extensive nature of Moreen’s surgery, it was advised that she might require a planned admission to ICU, as well as rigorous follow-up of her wound in the community upon discharge. Hence it became apparent that it would be important for Moreen and her family to have NHIF (National Health Insurance Funding) prior to receiving the surgery. Ultimately this meant that Moreen’s surgery was pushed back and scheduled for January 2016; the date that Moreen’s NHIF insurance would come into effect.
On Tuesday 19th January 2016, Rose, Moreen, and I attended an outpatient appointment at Kenyatta Hospital, and immediately booked an admission for elective surgery on Thursday 21st January 2016. The outcome of the day was wildly emotional for Rose because the surgery had been pending for such a long time – in fact, there were even a few tears of joy when it was finally realized! Moreen too was very excited and being the fashion-conscious 12-year old that she is, mentioned that ‘she wanted to stop wearing only turtlenecks’ which she wore to hide the scarring on her neck. For myself, seeing Rose and Moreen’s reaction, made all the emails, all the hours spent at Kenyatta hospital, and all the days traveling to and from appointments in Nairobi (as well as the many three and a half hour Matatu journeys from Chogoria to Nairobi!), become absolutely worthwhile.
On the morning of the 21st of January 2016, I visited Moreen in the ward prior her surgery. I was amazed by how calm and collected Moreen was – her bravery never ceases to amaze me! The surgery was difficult but successful, and after approximately 8 hours, a free flap was created from tissues taken from Moreen’s upper thighs. The surgeons used Microsurgery to connect the blood vessels of the tissue to the arteries and veins in Moreen’s neck, in order for the transplanted tissue to grow in the gap left when the strong scars and contractures were taken off. In addition, the pressure of the contractures pulling down Moreen’s jaw, which had caused her jaw to become dislocated over time, was finally corrected during the operation with the help of maxillofacial surgeon, Dr Vilembwa from Kenyatta Hospital.
Following her surgery, Moreen spent a few days as planned in Kenyatta ICU and was then discharged back to the Plastics ward, 4D, at Kenyatta Hospital. Whilst in this ward, Dr Stasch and Dr Nangole came to visit Moreen and were very pleased with the progress of the wound. She was officially discharged from hospital around Monday 22nd February 2016.
Moreen is currently being looked after by Rose who lives in Nairobi so that she is close to Kenyatta Hospital while the wound is still healing. I continue to visit Moreen intermittently and stay in close contact with her mother to check on her progress. We are hoping by the time she is seen in the Plastic Surgery Outpatient Clinic at Kenyatta Hospital, sometime in mid-March, that she will be fit to return back home to school and life in Chogoria.
I would like to extend my deepest thanks to Dr Tilman Stasch of the Valentis Clinic and FORTIS, Dr Nangole, Lecturer in the Department of Surgery at the University of Nairobi and Plastic Surgeon at Kenyatta Hospital, and Dr Vilembwa, Maxillofacial Surgeon at Kenyatta Hospital for their assistance in Moreen’s operation. I would also like to thank all the people who helped me in this journey from Winnie, at the Valentis Clinic, to the security guards at Kenyatta Hospital who gave me a chair and newspaper when I arrived there at 6am for an 8am appointment (anyone who knows Nairobi traffic will understand this!). Furthermore, I would like to thank all of the donors who provided the support to make this surgery a reality. Although Moreen had National Health Insurance, we still needed additional financial support, and therefore this surgery would not have moved forward without this significant support. Finally, I would like to thank Moreen’s family for their support. To all these people, I want to express gratitude of behalf of Village HopeCore International for helping us make this surgery a reality for Moreen.
You can read more about FORTIS and Dr Stasch and his work at:
13 March 2015
It’s been almost two months since our last blog about Moreen. Since then, Moreen has started a new year and is now in Class 7. She continues to be as upbeat and happy as she was when we met her in January, and she and her family are all still very excited for her upcoming surgery.
A bit of bad news is that the United States plastic surgeon, Chief of Surgery at the hospital she works for, who generously committed her time and talent to do Moreen’s surgery at no cost while she visits Kenya, has had to postpone her travel dates. However, this surgeon remains excited and very willing to help with Moreen’s burns when she does travel to Kenya in May or June.
In the meantime, Moreen has had a pre-operation work-up done at Chogoria Hospital with the assistance of two volunteers that were currently working with P.C.E.A. Chogoria Hospital at the time: UK pediatrician Dominic and pediatric nurse Rachel, both from the Global Links (Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health) Program. We’d like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Dominic and Nurse Rachel. Without their assistance, Moreen’s first experience at this new hospital would not have been as happy of an experience.
Moreen’s test results showed that she’s very healthy, and that she is ready for her surgery date when it comes. She and her grandma had a great time exploring the hospital and meeting the various doctors, nurses, and other patients that were there that day.
What’s next for Moreen?
The Sub-County Education Officer is currently working with Moreen’s school and community to organize a “harambee,” which is a gathering and fundraiser, to raise awareness about Moreen and encourage the community to take a more proactive role in caring for each others’ health. We are looking forward to attending the harambee, as we know that her school and community members are so supportive of Moreen!
Also, a woman from the United States named Kathy, who was a key player in fundraising money back in the States to help pay for Moreen’s surgery costs, is currently visiting Chogoria. She is looking forward to meeting Moreen, the girl who inspired so many of Kathy’s friends and colleagues, while she is visiting.
More updates – as well as more photos – to come soon!
15 January 2015
Meet Moreen! She’s twelve years old and is going into Class 7. She loves to laugh, draw, have her photo taken, and eat ice cream, and she currently lives with her grandmother. She’s a bit shy when you first meet her, but when she warms up to you, she’ll want to constantly talk and play.
In 2010, she was accidentally burned by the oil from a kerosene lamp. After surgeries and skin grafts, many scars and second- and third-degree burns still remain on an otherwise healthy Moreen. Because of how her wounds healed, she does not have full range of motion in her neck, which limits her ability to speak and eat, and she also has some hearing loss. When it comes to her peers, her physical appearance often overshadows her kind personality, and she hasn’t been able to develop socially as other children her age do.
She was brought by her teacher to HopeCore’s medical director, Dr. Phil Rasori, during one of his visits to Chogoria in July. He never forgot her story, and since then, he has been working to get Moreen the help she needs.
Recently, we have received good news that a prestigious U.S. plastic surgeon will be volunteering her services in Kenya for a little over a week, and she is willing to work on Moreen. Thanks to her, Dr. Rasori, HopeCore’s public health staff, and the generous donations of many who have already been touched by Moreen’s story, she is on her way to having the plastic surgery she needs in March.
We hope her story, as it unfolds and continues to be updated through this page, will inform and inspire you, as it already has for us at HopeCore, and we hope that you’ll follow her on her journey. Check this back soon for more updates about her recent pre-operation workup at Chogoria Hospital.
((If you have any questions about Moreen, or HopeCore’s involvement in her story, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow #MoreensStory on our social media platforms for up-to-date information.))