African boy attacked by chimps recovers after New York surgery

Mon Feb 1, 2016 5:50pm EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Barbara Goldberg

STONY BROOK, N.Y. (Reuters) - Just weeks after a surgical team on New York's Long Island began a series of operations to rebuild both lips of an 8-year-old boy mauled by chimpanzees in Africa, the sound of success filled a play room at Stony Brook Children's Hospital.

"Slurp!" was heard as Dunia Sibomana sipped a spoonful of chicken broth through his newly created lips. The surgery has already helped him keep food inside his mouth, speak more clearly and stop constant drooling, said lead surgeon Dr. Alexander Dagum, the hospital's chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Two years ago, Sibomana was playing with children in his native Democratic Republic of Congo when chimpanzees attacked, ripping off his lips and killing his younger brother.

The rare double-lip reconstruction requires several surgeries over the course of about nine months, and the first took place on Jan. 11.

Complications arose during the surgery, which was expected to last eight hours but stretched to 14, as Dagum harvested a rectangle of skin, nerve, tendon and vein from the child's forearm and used it to form the circle of both lips.

It turned out the vein was too short to reach a crucial blood supply in the neck so Dagum scrambled to collect a second vein from the boy's upper arm to make the connection.

Racing against the clock to keep the transferred tissue alive by surgically restoring the blood supply, Dagum looked through a microscope and sewed vein to vein and nerve to nerve.

In the end, Dagum said he was surprised by the extent Sibomana is now able to move his lips, which will improve further as swelling subsides. A subsequent surgery this summer also is meant to enhance the movement and look of the lips.   Continued...

Dunia Sibomana, 8, who was attacked two years ago by chimpanzees in his village in the Democratic Republic of Congo, plays with Eian, 12, and Grace, 10, of his host family, in his room at Stony Brook Children's Hospital, New York January 29, 2016.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton