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East Lancashire medic gives hope to Ethiopian children
A SPECIALIST doctor is preparing to travel to Africa to help children whose faces have been eaten away by gangrene.
Bill Hamlin, consultant anaesthetist at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, will visit Ethiopia with a team surgeons and nurses to perform reconstructive surgery on patients suffering from noma disease – an extreme infection which severely disfigures the victim’s face.
Bill is a trustee of the Facing Africa charity, which pays for two highly skilled surgical teams to visit the country each year.
A number of nurses from the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals have also volunteered, and will take unpaid leave for the two-week trip in October.
Bill said: “Anaesthesia and surgery to help these people is technically complex and not generally available through the Ethiopian hospital system.
“Being able to provide the skills and resources needed for reconstructive surgery allows me and my fellow volunteers to help these children and restore some element of normality to their lives.
“The cost of this surgery would be more than most noma victims’ lifetime earnings. Facing Africa treats all patients at no cost to them and Ethiopian doctors are encouraged to join the team and learn the special techniques used.”
Noma attacks people, particularly children, whose immune systems have been weakened by disease and malnutrition.
The infection starts in the mouth and spreads rapidly. Within just a few weeks the lips, cheek, nose and jaw are eaten away by gangrene, leaving severely disfiguring scars on the victims' faces and often an inability to open their mouth.
The travel party will include other surgeons from the UK, Germany, France and Holland.
For more information about the charity see: www.facingafrica.org
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