A nine-year-old boy from Congo is astounding doctors with his new lease on life, after being attacked by chimps in a forest preserve that left his playmates dead.
Dunia Sibomana was the only survivor of the attack that took place three years ago, where his 4-year-old brother and young cousin died. As a result of the traumatic incident, he was left with a lips ripped off, a torn cheek and muscle damage so severe that he could not swallow or communicate with people, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports.
In January, Dunia was flown to the United States to undergo rare surgery at a hospital in Long Island. Surgeons grafted tissue and muscle from his forearm to recreate his lips. A host family in Brooklyn took him in, and nearly a year after his operation, Dunia is thriving. Even with a lot of healing ahead, he can now open and close his mouth, eat and talk normally.
His doctors and the host family say that he was initially self-conscious, shy and passive, but has now become fluent in English. He has also learned taekwondo, soccer and surfing, and has made friends in his new neighborhood.
Kim Chaix, the boy’s host father, says,
He has a ton of friends. He can’t walk down the street without people stopping to give him a high-five. It’s New York City that’s really raising this child.
Dunia lives with Chaix, his wife, and Anabelle, their nine-year-old daughter with whom he has become fast friends.
He had never attended school in Congo, but is now in second grade. Dr. Leon Klempner, an assistant professor of dentistry at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital who helped bring Dunia in for surgery with the help of nonprofit Smile Rescue Fund for Kids, says, “A lot of the social stigma that he came with is now gone. He’s got a lot more confidence now. He doesn’t get the stares that he used to get.”
Dr. Alexander Dagum, chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the hospital, says only knows three other cases where the same facial operation was performed. The hospital is covering the costs, and the doctors on Dunia’s case have donated their time.
Dunia continues to spend weekends with a family from Congo to learn his native Swahili and brush up on his heritage. His mother died several years ago, but he still communicates with his father in Congo via recorded videos that are delivered back and forth.
Chaix says it’s unclear if Dunia will stay in the USA or return to Congo, but that Dunia has “embraced” the latter and that they have all “grown from this whole experience.”