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Dr. Max Gomez: Stony Brook Doctors To Restore Boy's Face Following Chimp Attack

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- A boy from Africa was on Long Island Monday, hoping that doctors could restore his face after it was terribly disfigured in a chimpanzee attack.

It's a difficult, groundbreaking survey, but as CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez explained, the little boy's fighting spirit will help him recover.

Two years ago, in the Central Democratic Republic of Congo, Dunia was playing with his brother and cousin near the jungle by his village when they were viciously attacked by a group of chimpanzees.

Dunia survived, but he was terribly disfigured. Dunia's brother and cousin were killed in the attack, WCBS 880's Sophia Hall reported.

At first glance Dunia looks like a normal, active 8-year-old who smiles a lot. A closer look reveals what the chimpanzees did to his face. He lost a finger, part of his ears, and cheek, but the loss of both of his lips has been the most damaging to his appearance and his psyche.  

"Difficulty eating, drools a lot, certain speech sounds, psychosocial sides are most damaging, made fun of. Other children in his position, they withdraw, they isolate themselves," Dr. Leon Klempner, Stony Brook Children's Hospital explained.

Dr. Klempner helped bring Dunia to the country through his non-profit charitable organization Smile Rescue Fund For Kids.

Dunia is living with a host family in Hauppauge, where he's been welcomed by the kids in the family as well as the teachers and children in the local elementary school.

Duni has only picked up a little English so far, but he told CBS2's Dr. Gomez through a Swahili speaking interpreter that he really likes American food, and the gifts he got for Christmas.

Dr. Alexander Dagum, Chief of Plastic Surgery at Stony Brook, showed CBS2's Dr. Gomez the surgical plan to restore Dunia's lips.

"First step to take tissue from his forearm and transfer up to form both lips," Dr. Dagum explained.

That's challenging, but the really hard part is getting the new lips to have sensation and to move.

"They function when we eat and speak, and keeps us from drooling, so returning function is the key," Dr. Dagum explained.

Dr. Dagum is hopeful that his team will be able to give Dunia functioning, cosmetically acceptable lips so the happy child can go back home.

The process will likely take three or four operations over the next six to eight months.

All of the medical care is being donated by Stony Brook and the doctors. his transportation, clothes, and other expenses are being covered by the Smile Rescue Fund For Kids.

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