Page last updated at 23:01 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 00:01 UK

A 'new face' for movie star extra

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Joel Waiswa. Picture credit:Sonja Horsman
Joel now dreams of becoming a doctor

The film crew of Oscar winning movie The Last King of Scotland were so moved by the medical plight of one of their extras that they helped arrange facial surgery for him in the UK.

They discovered 10-year-old Joel Waiswa in Uganda while filming the movie, which depicts the relationship between Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and his Scottish physician.

While filming in a ramshackle hospital in the capital Kampala, film producer Lisa Bryer was approached by Joel who asked for and was given a part.

Joel had a large facial tumour that distorted his nose and pushed one of his eyes so far forward it looked as if it was outside his skull.

Seeking help

Lisa tried desperately to get him surgery.

"After speaking to Joel and hearing of his heartbreaking long wait to see doctors I just knew that I couldn't leave without securing him the treatment he so desperately needed, so I worked with local doctors to get him all the help they could offer," she said.

He is the most fabulous little boy. Full of life, smiles and bubbly enthusiasm
Niall Kirkpatrick

But because local doctors did not have either the facilities or specialist skills to treat Joel, Lisa appealed to the UK children's charity, Facing The World.

He was flown to the UK and his face repaired in one single 10-hour operation at the Cromwell Hospital.

Craniofacial surgeon Niall Kirkpatrick, ear, nose and throat specialist Will Grant and eye surgeon Naresh Joshi all donated their time for free.

Mr Kirkpatrick said that although the tumour was benign, it was continuing to grow and distort Joel's facial features.

"Joel's problems were a very severe facial deformity as a result of a tumour growing in the middle of his face which was steadily growing, twisting and rotating his face through approximately 90 degrees and pushing his eye sideways and outwards several centimetres," he said.

The medical team not only had to remove the tumour, but also put the little boy's facial features - including one eye - back into position, ensuring they lost none of the muscle function or nerves.

Mr Kirkpatrick, said the surgery had been a great success, but that Joel might need further surgery to correct the position of his teeth in the future.

Joel Waiswa
Joel's tumour was pushing his eye from his skull
"Joel's face was transformed in one major procedure, and although the minor bruising around Joel's eye may take a while to completely resolve, the transformation after his surgery is incredible.

"He can now look forward to a future that until now was destined to be bleak.

"He is the most fabulous little boy, full of life, smiles and bubbly enthusiasm.

"He will live life to the full whatever is thrown at him and is just absolutely charming. He is very bright and has learnt remarkably good English very quickly."

He added: "It has been a real pleasure to be able to help."

Joel's dreams

Joel is so delighted by the surgery that he has vowed to become a medic when he returns home.

"I am so happy to be alive and that everything went so well. I'm looking forward to going home and will work hard and study to become a doctor so that I can help people also".

Joel's mother said: "I see such a wonderful change in Joel and only God can know how happy I am for having the opportunity for Joel to come to London for his surgery.

"I do not have words to thank Lisa Bryer, the surgeons and everyone at Facing the World.

"They have changed my son's life".

Sarah Driver-Jowitt, executive co-ordinator of Facing the World, said: "Joel is a delight. It is not often that you are privileged to meet someone who lights up every room that he walks into and to have had the opportunity to give him a future that he always deserved has been an honour."

She said the charity, helped by Lisa Bryer, had secured a good school for Joel to set him on the road for a "wonderful future".


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