Feeding difficulties may result in food accumulation behind the teeth, causing decay and for children with cleft palate, orthodontics may be required to align the teeth and jaws.
Surgery may be required to help correct strabismus (crossed eyes) or to transfer nerves and muscle to the face, thereby improving the ability to smile. Reconstructive surgery can also help address facial, limb and jaw differences.
I was diagnosed at 3 years old by a Neurosurgeon who was one of the doctors who performed the first smile surgery in South Africa. I was raised by a single mother and a strong, tight-knit community in a small township called “Top City” in Potchefstroom. Community members were always willing to help me get to the hospital whenever I got sick or had doctors’ appointments.
I attended a normal private school called Saints Christian School. I was the only child with a disability in the school but despite it, I never received much bullying or discrimination from my peers. When we moved to Brits in my teenage years however, I did experience challenges which severely affected my emotional well-being. My church, Kings Lighthouse Christian Church, and my mom helped me to adapt to the different environment and new schools and I later found out my primary school headmaster was friends with my pastor.
I am currently a University student - which also has its challenges, especially when it comes to matters of communicating with my supervisors and conducting research. I would always need a research assistant to be my mouthpiece - which is kind of sad cause I love to speak to people - but I’ve learnt to cope with my challenges. Moebius Syndrome is a part of me but I refuse to let it stop me from living my life to the fullest.
There was a recent advertisement on TV that struck a chord as it made me see how people around me watched me grow up. The advert – for a local food restaurant - was a about a boy that couldn’t smile no matter how hard his parents, friends, doctors and teachers tried. My mom said it reminded her of those moments when she had to come to terms with my disability – whilst I never ended up smiling (and believe me I’ve tried), I do smile in different ways - through loving people, showing affection when I am happy and excited and through helping people.
I am at my happiest when I am helping people and I recently started an organisation that will help people living with disabilities in rural communities and I believe it will always put a smile on my face (and my heart).