Because of the factors associated with poverty, such as chronic malnutrition and exposure to viral and bacterial infection, which leads to disease progression, Noma is also known as the Face of Poverty. This had left Saline with a severely deformed face, making even eating and breathing difficult.
Dr. Klempner discovered her after returning from an educational mission at Gertrude's Children's Hospital in Nairobi in 2010. He received an email from a doctor about the adolescent's condition.
This is when he had the idea to start the non-profit organization Smile Rescue Fund for Kids, which was the start of her transformation. When Saline arrived at the hospital, the doctors noticed that she lacked an upper lip and a pallet with an incomplete nose, making feeding, speaking, and other activities difficult for her.
Dr. Dagum performed an estimated ten surgeries, which resulted in her face being reconstructed. Saline's face wasn't ideal or perfect, but it allowed her to speak and eat normally.
Despite her return to Kenya in 2014, her journey did not end there due to the time required for healing from the plastic surgical procedures she had undergone. Following that, she developed a series of recurring infections in her cheek that were not treatable in Nairobi.
This prompted Klempner to return her to Stony Brook, where Dagum discovered the source of the infection and successfully treated it.
Klempner emphasizes the critical role that his team played in responding to the procedures. “It was truly a collaborative effort. Everyone offered their services and wanted to assist.”
He also mentions how the communities with which his nonprofit organization works collaborated with the entire medical staff to make this possible.
The doctors also acknowledged the enormous satisfaction that comes with doing such work. “The extra time she spent allowed us to help Saline heal, adjust, and see her future,” Klempner explained.
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