NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Eight-year-old Dunia Sibomana has just undergone the first in a series of surgeries to repair extensive damage to his face sustained during an attack by chimpanzees two years ago.
They ripped out his lips and part of his cheek. But he was relatively lucky. His younger brother was killed in the attack in their native Democratic Republic of Congo.
A team of doctors operated on Dunia at The Children's Hospital at Stony Brook Medical Centre in Long Island, New York, for 14 hours.
Dr Leon Klempner of the Smile Rescue Fund for kids, says the surgery was remarkable.
"Amazing doesn't really encompass what was done in that room. This was ground-breaking surgery to restore both upper and lower lips and what I watched was skilled surgeons under a microscope sewing arteries to arteries, suturing together, bringing nerves and veins together. This was pretty remarkable," Dr Klempner said.
The rare, double-lip reconstruction meant harvesting a rectangle of skin, nerve, tendon and vein from Dunia's forearm, using it to create the circle of both lips.
More surgeries will be needed over nine months.
"A lot of people have said, 'wow, he's got lips already?' But this is just to get tissue to that area so that we can develop a canvas for restoring some better aesthetics later. So it's just the beginning point," Dr Klempner said.
Doctors say they are very happy with the results, although there is much more work still ahead. Donations have poured in, enough to pay for boarding school, when Dunia returns with a new face to his old life in Africa.