Mauritania: journey towards life for little Abbass

by Terre des hommes | Terre des hommes (Tdh) - Switzerland
Friday, 25 April 2014 08:22 GMT

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Mauritania: journey towards life for little Abbass

Terre des hommes (Tdh) enables children to receive specialised treatment as required by their condition ( If a child cannot undergo surgery in his/her own country due to the lack of a sufficient infrastructure, Tdh, with the assistance of Tdh Spain, transports this child to Europe or Switzerland to receive the treatment needed to recover his/her health. Abbass, a 4 year old boy from Mauritania, underwent surgery in Spain.

A new face for Abbass

In just two months, in Madrid, Abbass has undergone surgery, lived with a host family, and begun a new life. The fall he had three years ago broke his nose and ever since he has not been able to breathe through it. He needed surgery that the doctors in his home country, Mauritania, could not perform ( Thanks to Specialised care program offered by Tdh Lausanne, Tdh Spain and San Rafael Hospital, the face of this four year old little boy will develop normally, and in a week he will be able to return to his family.

His foster mother, Mar Ejeda, remembers: when he took the lift in the hospital, he looked scared and his smile vanished. She looked at him perplexed and two seconds later said: “Ah, of course, it is your first time in a lift!”. Abbass was normally a happy kid, always smiling, and trusting of his new mum, with whom he shared a great sense of camaraderie. “He fitted in very well, but he didn’t forget his family. Every time he came to the hospital, he would ask me whether he was going back home”.

On 3rd April, after having recovered from the surgery performed by the craniofacial deformities team in the surgical department of San Rafael Hospital, Abbass returned home to his family in Nouakchott, Mauritania.

A successful and necessary operation

Teresa Martinez Iturriaga, the head of the team, explains why this operation was necessary: “The trauma caused a severe stenosis (narrowing) of the nostrils which forced him to breathe through his mouth at all times. When this condition persists, as in Abbass’ case, it results in abnormal facial development. The jaw does not grow properly resulting in a dental malocclusion (misalignment of teeth). It is essential that children are able to breathe through their nose.”

Even though the surgery is not new, it can be risky. “I spent several days studying similar cases. The main issue is knowing which tissues are missing and from which part of the body to get them in order to make the surgery as least invasive as possible. He already had a scar from the trauma, therefore my idea was to take advantage of it and make the incision through it, avoiding giving him a second scar, since dark skin does not scar well”. Skin and cartilage taken from the upper part of the ear was used to reconstruct the nostrils and columella (the part of the nose that separates the nostrils). The operation, carried out on 4th February, was a complete success.

An experience that Abbass will never forget

In this “journey towards life”(Viaje hacia la vida), Abbass has been able to have completely new experiences. “What most catches his attention is water. The first time I bathed him, it was pure joy. I called all my family so that they could see how much he was enjoying it. He could not believe that so much water was just for him. He also loves getting wet in the rain. And the toys, from which he cannot be separated, not even in bed. He is also very smart, he learns everything very quickly,” says Mar.

Every year, Terre des hommes offers sustainable solutions and a better future for over two million children and their relatives. Learn more about our specialised treatment projects (

(Source: El Mundo)