Last year the world was introduced to three-year old Moroccan toddler, Yahya El Jabaly.
He was a charming little boy who just happened to be born with severe facial deformities. While in the womb, his face didn’t form properly and left him with no eyes, a hole where his nose should be, no jaw, an incomplete skull and a serious cleft.
Because of his condition he rarely left the house. His family loved him, of course, but were concerned about potential infection. When he did go out, they covered him up. He was a real life bubble boy. Luckily for the Jabaly family, their neighbour had an internet connection (one of the only connections in the village). Their neighbour posted a picture of young Yahya and a phone number as a plea for medical help. They had gone to local doctors and were told there was nothing to be done so Facebook seemed to be a last resort.
Melbourne woman, Fatima Baraka, saw the post on Facebook and was moved to take action. Being born not too far from the village Yahya lived in, she knew she had to help. So she searched for a surgeon who would be able and willing to do the risky surgery and help sweet Yahya. That’s when she found Dr. Tony Holmes.
Fatima traveled to Morocco to meet the Jabaly family and have a doctor assess his development to see if he would be suitable for the dangerous surgery. The doctors made it clear that there was a chance the surgery could kill him but if successful, could help him greatly. After the initial assessment they flew Yahya out to Melbourne for additional testing (CT scans, MRIs). Regardless of the risks, it was decided that they should move ahead with the surgery.
Dr. Holmes told Channel Seven’s Sunday Night:
“I think this one is about as difficult as it gets. A 9.5-out-of-10 degree of difficulty.”
The surgery took place in December. It was expected to be an eight hour operation but ended up taking almost a full day (18 hours). Because the surgery was so long, there had to be a team of surgeons working in shifts. They had broken and rearranged bones in his face which brought the two sides of his skull back together. They also sculpted him a nose with his own skin and had to detach the lining of his brain from his skull. During the long procedure, young Yahya lost nearly half of his blood, but the sweet toddler pulled through! This sort of surgery is certainly not cheap but the Jabaly family received donations and the help from doctors who were willing to operate pro bono.
It’s just now that the young boy’s facial transformation has been unveiled and he looks incredible! There are still a couple more surgeries lined up to add in some prosthetic eyes and more work is to be done on his nose…but the changes that have been made are truly life changing. The fact that Yahya’s vocal chords remained intact following the procedure could mean that he will eventually be able to speak and not just communicate through grunts like he did prior to the surgery.
Mostafa, Yahya’s father said:
“It’s a huge joy, a huge happiness to see my son in such a situation”
Mrs. Baraka was also overjoyed at the outcome. She said:
“He’s a very smart little kid, he’s got so much potential, there’s no reason for him not to have a good, healthy bright future.”
The work of the skilled doctors and this little boy’s strength are inspiring. It’s truly amazing how people can pull together to help, even when they are helping someone on the other side of the world.