Joseph, a young boy, sitting up in his hospital bed, smiling at the camera.

On a peaceful morning in 2021, five-year-old Joseph was playing at his cousin’s house. Nobody expected the day to end with Joseph being rushed to intensive care, after an unfortunate accident left him with severe burns to his legs.

Joseph’s mother, Divui, donated skin from her own legs to be used to graft his wounds. Joseph had to spend 3 months recovering on the ward, several hours away from home. He and his family then had to stay in the local area for another 5 months, so that he could have regular dressing changes and attend physiotherapy.

Despite the initial care provided by local surgeons in Fiji, the scars on Joseph’s legs contracted and he was unable to straighten them fully. This made walking unsafe and difficult.

With Interplast due to visit Fiji on a surgical program in November 2022, Joseph’s parents were contacted. They arranged to make the trip back to Labasa for surgical treatment from the Interplast team.

Our volunteer team were able to excise the burns scars and perform z-plasty releases down both of his legs, with skin grafts onto the backs of his knees so that he could straighten them out. Unfortunately, during Joseph’s recovery period, the team were alerted to the fact that his grafts hadn’t taken well. He would need further surgery.

When planning for another surgical program in April 2023, we reached out to Polynovo, a medical equipment manufacturing company based in Port Melbourne. Interplast’s surgical team knew that Polynovo had developed a product called Novosorb® BTM. This is a man-made synthetic material that may be used to temporarily close a wound and aid the body in generating new tissue. They were keen to see if it could be used to help Joseph.

Together, Interplast and Polynovo planned the approach for using the product in Fiji for the first time, including education to clinical staff at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital.

Joseph’s surgery went really well. Interplast’s volunteer team continued to follow Joseph closely, and provide ongoing education and support to the local team in Fiji. Josephs team consists of surgeon, Dr Scott Buadromo, burns nurse Mereia Seru and physiotherapist Akisi Dovibua, who will continue to manage his grafts.

To the relief and delight of Joseph and his family, he has now returned to his home and is walking and running around, for the first time in many years.

We’re excited to be developing a long-term partnership with Polynovo, and look forward to many other opportunities to collaborate in support of Interplast’s vital work.