Skin graft patient recovers

Johannesburg - A five-year-old girl is recovering well at a hospital in Johannesburg after undergoing an advanced skin graft transplant operation last month, her doctor said on Thursday.

"The latest reports from her plastic and reconstructive surgeon regarding the grafting of her cloned skin are encouraging," said paediatric intensivist Dr Porai Moshesh.

Celiwe Maseko was placed under heavy sedation after 14 pieces of cloned skin were placed on her body in an advanced skin transplant procedure on April 25.

Skin taken from Maseko was cloned at a laboratory in the United States before being flown to South Africa for the procedure at the Netcare Garden City Hospital.

Moshesh said Maseko was slowly being "brought around" and would soon not need ventilation.

She currently had a minor chest infection, which doctors were monitoring.

"Otherwise, I am very pleased with Celiwe&39;s progress. Her blood pressure and other vital signs remain excellent," said Moshesh.

Maseko, who is from Kagiso, near Krugersdorp, suffered severe third degree burns over 35 percent of her body in January.

She was with a friend who was playing with matches when her dress caught fire. She sustained burns to her back, stomach and thighs.

The advanced surgery is the same as the procedure used for Limpopo burn victim Pippie Kruger.

Maseko is the first dark-skinned patient to have the surgery.

Moshesh said the hospital&39;s nursing staff had been extremely helpful throughout the procedure.

"They are our right arm, and our work would simply not be possible without their considerable efforts."