The chances of Isabella “Pippie” Kruger ever being able to lead a normal life or surviving after sustaining third degree burns over 80% of her body at the age of two and half years old were virtually zero. However, Dr Ridwan Mia (37), a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Netcare’s Garden City Hospital, refused to accept the odds and performed the first cloned skin transplant in South Africa on Pippie.
The ground breaking procedure used by Dr Mia on Pippie involved transplanting her own cloned skin on to her body in what became the first extensive skin transplant on a child of laboratory grown skin in the world.
On Thursday the lessons learnt from the success of that operation were applied to Celiwe Maseko, who sustained third degree burns to 35% of her body after a friend accidentally threw a burning match at her while playing. It was for the significant impact he made on improving the lives of burn victims like Pippie and Celiwe that Dr Mia was awarded a silver Order of the Baobab by President Zuma at an investiture ceremony held at the Union Buildings on Freedom Day, Saturday 27 April 2013.
On receiving the award Mia said: "I cannot fathom that at this stage of my career I would be in such a privileged position. I cannot even begin to explain to you what an honour it is for me to be receiving this award. I am completely overwhelmed. It still hasn't sunk in.”
The Presidency said it recognised Dr Mia for his excellent contribution to the field of medicine and giving hope to victims devastated by burn injuries.
Dr Mia formally qualified as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in May 2011, after furthering his training and gaining work experience in the field for close to five years.
From a young age he wanted to be a doctor. After obtaining his medical degree from Wits Medical School he set his heart on becoming a cardiologist. His internship at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital changed his mind, sowing the seeds of his future career as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.
“It was there that I found I enjoyed using my hands, I enjoyed operating and found that type of work very satisfying. If there was somebody injured you could repair their wounds,” he said.
“From Baragwanath I went to the United Kingdom for further training and work experience in plastic surgery. I had the option to stay in the UK but I think if you love this country, are passionate about it and the people here are important to you, you are not going to want to leave South Africa,” he adds.
“On my return I was trained as a surgeon at the Wits Medical School and the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital. Thereafter I started private practice where I came into my element treating many emergency burn victims, among other aesthetics and reconstructive surgical procedures,” he said.
Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney or Monique Vanek
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