A new face means new hope

A British soldier who spotted a boy with a terrible deformity while on patrol in Bosnia has spent ten years fundraising to finally deliver his promise of giving him – a new face. One only wonder as to why the Westerners and Christians come up with such initiatives and we seldom hear of the Muslims ever doing such things. Are we only responsible for waging Jihad in this world?

Staff Sergeant Wayne Ingram, 44, met four-year-old Stefan Savic a decade ago while on peacekeeping duties in Eastern Europe.

Clip_31The youngster was born with a debilitating condition Tessier facial cleft which meant his eyes were 4.5cm further apart than normal and he had no proper nose.

But father-of-two Wayne, formerly of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers, was so moved by Stefan’s plight he vowed to get him state-of-the-art medical help.

He collected an amazing £85,000 with a fundraising drive across Bosnia and the UK before bringing Stefan back to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2003.

The youngster underwent 12 hours of surgery with plastic surgeon David Dunaway who cut his face in half before moving his eyes closer together and building him a nose.

The op was a success but Mr Dunaway warned that a second surgery would be needed a decade later.

Just a normal, playful little boy

Determined Wayne kept in touch with Stefan and his parents Slavenka, 36, and Milos, 44, raising a further £20,000 to bring him back to the UK to finish his treatment.

Stefan, now aged 14, returned to Great Ormond Street this week for his second operation with Mr Dunaway to improve his face and help his breathing.

Modest Wayne, from Weymouth, Dorset, said he was just happy to complete the remarkable job of helping Stefan lead the life of a normal little boy.

He said: “I was on a routine patrol In Bosnia when I was introduced to his father and went to meet Stefan.

“The condition had been left untreated and had grown between Stefan’s eyes, crushing his skull, forcing his eyes apart to the point he couldn’t see what was ahead of him.

“But aside from the facial deformities he was just a normal, playful little boy. He was confident and cheeky, climbing all over me as we played football in the yard.

“He was too young then to be self-aware. But his facial cleft was blocking his airways and without medical attention could kill him.

“I had two young sons myself at the time and there was no way I could stand back and do nothing. I knew in an instant I had to do everything I could to help.”

Massive fundraising drive

As Wayne set about raising funds, he wrote to a long list of celebrities – but only David Beckham replied, politely explaining he had already chosen his charities for that year.

Mr Dunaway was offering his services for free but Wayne still needed to pay for flights, accommodation for the family, as well as essential hospital costs.

He raised 6,000 Euros by staging a charity football match in Banja Luka, with Muslim, Serb and Croat players setting aside their conflicts to help Stefan.

And back in the UK, Wayne launched a massive fundraising drive, persuading his local Asda to put collection boxes beside their tills.

Wayne said: “Donations poured in and I was bowled over by the generosity.

“Stefan needed three operations back then – one to remove his teeth, another to reconstruct his nose and another to reconstruct his skull.

“He was back and forth to the UK many times, staying for as long as a month at a time.

“The doctors warned us it wasn’t over, however, and that ten years later Stefan would need follow up surgery.

“But we have kept in touch ever since and as ten years neared I let Stefan’s family know I would raise the necessary funds – over £20,000.”

As Wayne set about raising a second lot of cash to pay for visas, hospital costs and flights, he was once more amazed by people’s generosity.

In his native Dorset one anonymous donor, calling herself simply ‘the kind granny’ contributed a “large, undisclosed” amount.

And this time celebs including comic Jim Davidson and musician Billy Bragg also answered his SOS.

Honouring a promise

With the funding in place, brave Stefan underwent his four-hour follow-up operation with Mr Dunaway on Saturday and is making a good recovery.

Mr Dunaway, who once more waived his fees, said: “This operation was really about reconstructing his nose and improving his nasal airway.

“His nose was very wide and he basically didn’t have a tip to it at all.

“We took a cartilage from one rib, fashioned it into the shape of a nose, then used it to reconstruct his nose.

“This will allow him to breath more easily, eat more easily, it will improve his speech and he will look much more like the rest of us.

“To have the opportunity to greet him again and finish it off so he can lead a normal life and not worry about these things is just great.”

Stefan will likely need a further operation on his nose and orthodontics to realign his teeth before one final surgery to correct the roof of his mouth.

Wayne, who was so inspired by Stefan’s medical progress he became a paramedic after leaving the army, says he’ll be there every step of the way.

Wayne, whose own sons Harry and Toby are now 18 and 16, added: “Stefan has never moaned or complained the whole time I’ve known him.

“His mum says that after his latest operation he looked in front of the mirror and said: ‘this is the best thing that has ever happened to me’.

“For me this was about honouring a promise I made all those years ago and doing everything I could for Stefan.

“He’s changed my life as well and inspired me to become a paramedic. We’ll always have an inseparable bond.”

Wayne’s fundraising efforts have been supported by the Facing the World charity, which provides life-changing surgery to children from developing countries with severe facial disfigurements.

To make a donation visit facingtheworld.net