Smiling Stefan returns to London

Thursday 8th May

Stefan and Wayne_May 2014On Saturday, after months of fundraising by former British soldier Wayne Ingram, and with the logistical support of FTW, Bosnian teenager Stefan Savic was admitted to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for reconstructive facial surgery.

Over a decade ago, in 2003, Stefan, who had been born with a severe facial cleft, had been operated on by the same GOSH surgeon, David Dunaway. Stefan’s condition at birth was rare and debilitating. Wayne Ingram, then the Staff Sergeant at 9th/12th Royal Lancers, was on a peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in 2003. He met the young Stefan, and raised £85,000 to bring him to London for surgery. Stefan was always going to need more reconstructive surgery to his nose, and this year it was possible to help him.

Stefan was born with a severe facial cleft effecting the centre of his face between his eyes, forehead and nose. His nasal airways had not developed, making it difficult for him to breath. He underwent emergency surgery, in Belgrade, at just a month old, but it was clear that he would need more surgery as he grew.

Stefan’s family tried to find surgeons who could help him, but the medical facilities in Bosnia, particularly at that time, were limited and Stefan required highly specialised procedures. The surgery he needed was not without considerable risks, as the surgeons would need to operate close to Stefan’s brain, and to his eyes.

The family made contact with surgeons in Paris who could help, but the costs were too high, at 35,000 euros. Milos, Stefan’s father was then only earning 150 euros a month. His parents just wanted Stefan to see a future beyond his condition, but at such a high cost, this seemed out of their reach.

In 2003 Milos met Wayne Ingram. Wayne, also a father, was on a peacekeeping tour in Bosnia. The two became friends, and Wayne and the Royal Lancers were keen to help Stefan. Wayne initially tried contacting people in the public eye for support, but received few responses, and no donations. The Royal Lancer’s then organised a fundraising football match between local, and mixed multicultural teams. Together they raised 6,000 euros. Wayne then turned closer to his own home of Portland, and to the people of Dorset for financial help. With the support of the Dorset Echo newspaper and the local ASDA supermarket over £85,000 was raised for Stefan’s treatment and care in just a few weeks.

That year, David Dunaway (consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon and head of the Craniofacial unit at GOSH), responded to one of the many letters that Wayne had sent to hospitals asking for help, and offered his services for free. Stefan’s condition was so rare that GOSH only saw one case every 18 months, but it was operable, so in July of 2003  Stefan came to London for assessment and in November he returned to GOSH for surgery. He underwent a number of procedures – to remove his teeth which had grown irregularly in his misshapen palette; the excessive bone at the front of his skull was reduced, and his orbital bones were brought closer together.

Stefan returned to Bosnia, settled into school and did well in his classes.  A decade passed, and though Stefan’s family had known that he would require further surgery as he grew, particularly to his upper jaw (the maxilla), it wasn’t until August 2013, when Stefan had been admitted to his local hospital with a respiratory problem, sinusitis and eye inflammation. It became clear that the time for surgery was imminent. Wayne began campaigning for money, once again.

Last week Stefan returned to London, and to GOSH, for corrective surgery to his nose. David Dunaway, offered his services once again for free. FTW heard about Stefan’s story in January of this year and were pleased to be able to help Wayne with all the logistics required to bring Stefan and his family to London for his vital treatment. The teenager was accompanied by his Mum, Slava, and Aunt, Dzejna. All went well, and Stefan is extremely happy with the outcome.

The Mail Online featured Stefan’s story here.

(Picture – Wayne and Stefan in London, last week).

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