Monday, March 4 2013 2:25 PM EST2013-03-04 19:25:36 GMT
A 20-year-old man who lost his jaw, teeth and tongue in an explosion in his native Zimbabwe five years ago visited the San Diego Zoo Thursday.
A 20-year-old man who lost his jaw, teeth and tongue in an explosion in his native Zimbabwe five years ago visited the San Diego Zoo Thursday -- two days before he begins a series of reconstructive surgeries at Sharp Memorial Hospital.
SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The first of three surgeries to reconstruct the jaw and mouth of a 20-year-old Zimbabwe man injured in an explosion five years ago is scheduled for Saturday at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego.
Blessing Makwera was 15 when he stuck a cell phone battery in his mouth to free his hands while also tinkering with wires and a detonator. The battery exploded, obliterating his jaw, teeth and tongue, according to a profile on an episode of "Inside Africa" on CNN.
The nonprofit Operation of Hope, based in Lake Forest in Orange County, has partnered with Sharp Healthcare to provide three surgeries over the next six to eight months. Makwera hopes the operations will allow him to speak, chew and swallow more easily.
A surgical team led by physicians Joel Berger and Thomas Vecchione will perform the operations, according to Sharp Healthcare.
The first surgery is scheduled to last about 10 hours. By the time he's done with the three operations, doctors expect to reconstruct Makwera's jaw using part of his fibula, repair scar tissue in and around his mouth, and put in a permanent set of false teeth, according to Operation of Hope.
The organization has been raising funds to provide Makwera with housing, dental work, transportation, food and post-operative medical care.
Sharp Healthcare is donating surgical equipment and staff, while the doctors will work on their own time. A Sharp Healthcare spokesman said it is difficult to quantify the monetary value of the donations.