Pro-bono surgery completes a lifetime of care


Bradley Bola has endured more than his fair share of major surgeries in his young 19 years. The Papua New Guinea resident was born with Crouzon Syndrome, which meant his skull sutures fused prematurely, resulting in skull and facial growth abnormalities that affected his quality of life.

Unable to access adequate surgical care at home, Bradley was fortunate to be connected with the services of Rotary Oceania MedicalAid for Children (ROMAC) an organisation dedicated to providing specialist treatment to children from developing countries.

Through the efforts of ROMAC, Bradley has been able to travel to Melbourne to undergo treatment at no cost to himself or his family, for a total of four life-changing surgeries, with a fifth scheduled later this month. Epworth has been proud to support Bradley’s care, with maxillofacial surgeon Associate Professor Andrew Heggie performing three of Bradley’s surgeries — the last two at Epworth, with the most recent this past May.

Epworth maxillofacial surgeon discusses Brad's multiple surgeries

“Bradley came to us this year for a nasal reconstruction,” explains Andrew Heggie. “His nose was grossly deviated and collapsed without any support and his nasal passage was completely obstructed on the left side, so he required a rib graft to straighten and support his nose as well as a radical septoplasty to open the airway.”

“Bradley has had three previous procedures,” Andrew says. “The first was a forehead advancement when he was an infant, then at eight or nine we performed a distraction of his mid-face, using anchorage pins attached to the skull to pull his face forwards.

“Then we heard from his PNG paediatrician around 2013 when he was 17 and approaching the end of his growth. That’s when he had his major surgery — a full mid-facial advancement and chin advancement. After that surgery we knew his nose was flattened and twisted, and that we would need to fix it from a breathing perspective, which is what this most recent surgery has achieved.”

A/Prof Heggie says the four-hour surgery was a success and that Bradley is recovering well.

“He’s a very hardy young man, and he has a pretty high pain threshold,” says Andrew. “The surgery made an immediate difference to him, and it’s a huge change from our point of view, as well.”

Pro-bono assistance helps children most in need

ROMAC’s Gaynor Schols says the surgical assistance of Andrew and Epworth is greatly appreciated.

“Associate Professor Heggie has always offered his services pro-bono and ROMAC, Bradley and his family are extremely grateful,” she says. “We would also like to sincerely thank Alan Kinkade and all the wonderful staff at Epworth. With the spiralling costs of treating children all the financial help ROMAC can get is very important to allow us to keep our service going.”

A/Prof Heggie says he is a longstanding supporter of ROMAC and the wonderful service it provides.

“At a personal level it’s the most satisfying work I do,” he says. “To see the happiness and increase in self-esteem that surgery provides these kids, who come from very impoverished backgrounds, is a terrific feeling.”

Bradley will next undergo eye surgery at St Vincent’s Hospital — hopefully the last of his surgeries for some time.

Epworth surgical team for Bradley Bola

Associate Professor Andrew Heggie was assisted in Bradley's surgery by anaesthetist Dr Bertie Weitkamp, surgical assistant Dr James Kim, nurses Louise Norris and Morgan Loren.


This article first appeared on the Epworth HealthCare news pages. 


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