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Faraja's story: the little boy given new hope by North East medics

By Helen Ford, Health Correspondent

For someone so young, Faraja has spent a great deal of time in hospital.

Last year, he was horrifically burned when he fell into a fire during a seizure. After visiting a series of hospitals in the hope of treatment, he was seen by a burns team from Northumbria Healthcare. Volunteers from the trust were making an annual working trip to Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre, or KCMC; a hospital based at Moshi in northern Tanzania.

At that time, Faraja was gravely ill. He was given reconstructive surgery which, among other things, saved his eyesight by enabling his eyelids to function. Faraja thrilled everyone by making a strong recovery, which allowed him to return to school.

This autumn, the Northumbria burns team returned to Tanzania and decided to perform a second operation on Faraja. This procedure focused on providing him with greater movement in his neck.

ITV Tyne Tees spent time with the team in Tanzania, giving us the chance to meet Faraja and his father Yohana.

Faraja after his original operation in 2018 Credit: Northumbria Healthcare

He told me his son had been doing very well since the original surgery, explaining the main issue he now faced was that his mouth didn't always close.

The second operation was designed to change that, by helping the little boy to eat, drink, smile and talk more easily.

Meeting Faraja and his father Yohana Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Faraja may be the Northumbria burns team's most high profile patient, but he is far from alone. Each year, consultants, doctors and nurses volunteer their time at KCMC, working to transform the lives of people who have been badly burned. A key aim of the team is to pass on skills and knowledge to local medics, to ensure they can continue the same work in the future.

Sadly, burns are all too common in Tanzania, due to the use of open fires and kerosene in the home. The partnership between KCMC and Northumbria Healthcare led to the establishment of a dedicated burns unit in Moshi, providing specialist treatment and care to people like Faraja.

The work in the burns unit is part of a wider partnership between Northumbria Healthcare and KCMC, which has developed over twenty years. Funding for the project comes from the health trust's charity, Bright Northumbria.

Faraja on his way to theatre for his latest operation Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

The medical team was delighted with the outcome of Faraja's latest operation. The little boy's resilience is one reason why the family has been taken to the hearts of the Northumbria Healthcare volunteers, who are led by Australian-based plastic surgeon Jeremy Rawlins.

Firstly I think because he's a child and I think he has such an infectious personality as well, I think that's one thing that jumped out at the team when we first met him. The other thing is that his father cares for him very. very much and I think wanted the best for him.

– Peter Smith, Critical care nurse

He's got a really wonderful opportunity to do well. We've been able to help him with his eyesight, with his general ability to survive in this country, to be able to go to school, to get a job, to have a wonderful life really and it's amazing to be able to be part of that.

– Jeremy Rawlins, Plastic surgeon
Faraja after his latest operation Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Faraja, who is one of six children, must continue to recuperate. Longer term, his father has high hopes for his son. He hopes that Faraja can one day work for the benefit of others in his community.

You can watch my report on Faraja's story in the ITV Tyne Tees evening programme from 6pm on Monday 16th December.

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