Shamirah’s second chance

On Christmas Day 2016, then one-yearold Ugandan girl Shamirah slipped and landed on the front of her neck. Unable to breathe, she was rushed to a local hospital. The doctors saved her life, but were unable to perform the complex surgery required to repair the damage. She was sent home with a tube in her neck. Dr John Christie, a neurosurgeon at John Hunter Hospital, became aware of Shamirah’s situation and wanted to help. In December 2018, ENT surgeons Dr Niall Jefferson and Dr Kelvin Kong performed several major surgeries on the now threeyear- old. In late January, Shamirah’s tube was taken out and she was able to fly home to Uganda, able to speak, eat and breathe normally. Dr Jefferson said this has been one of his career highlights. ‘Shamirah was almost out of options. As a three year old, she had a tracheostomy tube in her throat appropriate for a one year old, she was basically breathing through a straw.” Shamirah and a carer were flown to Australia for free by South African Airlines, with Dr Christie and his wife Dr Kathryn James opening their home for them during her medical treatment.