Technicians with a healing touch
The lives of people deformed by cancer and other conditions are set to get a little better thanks to the addition of a second prosthesis specialist at Waikato Hospital.
The waiting list for maxillofacial treatment at Waikato Hospital is the "worst in the country", with most patients having to wait more than six months, maxillofacial technician Mike Williams says.
Mr Williams makes prostheses for people who have lost eyes, noses and other body parts, and fittings for mouths, such as dentures. He has been the sole technician at Waikato Hospital for years, despite the hospital having the biggest maxillofacial centre in the country.
But a second technician, Mustafa Mustafa, started on August 1. "Since he's been here we've actually been able to clear the deck. Now we need to start booking people in to starting making inroads," Mr Williams said.
Many of those are people needing facial prostheses or eyes.
"You've got people waiting that are facially disfigured," he said. "You can't walk around with a big hole in the middle of your face. It's unfortunate because some patients do become reclusive."
That was why it was important to fit people with a prosthesis as soon as possible.
In an ideal world , Mr Williams would like to see an eight-week turnaround from a patient having surgery to getting their prosthesis.
Mr Mustafa is already helping to change the life of one young boy, making a prosthetic arm for the 9-year-old who has a congenital deformity.
Every detail is thought about - including having the boy return during summer to repaint the tones of his prosthesis when he gets a tan.
"The colour is really important, and the texture." Mr Mustafa says.
Each detail, including the fine lines on a hand, is handcrafted. "I'll sit for hours carving and flaming and then carving again. I love it. I love it."
Mr Mustafa - who graduated from the University of Otago in 2010 - made the move from private practice in Auckland to take the job at Waikato.
In Auckland, his focus was mainly on making dentures, so the new job provided more variety, he said.
He also wanted to work with Mr Williams - "probably the best maxillofacialist in the country".
For Mr Mustafa, there is nothing better than the look on his patients's faces when they see the finished prosthesis.
"It's absolutely amazing. You just can't describe it. When they look at you and tell you they can't really tell the difference [between the real thing and prosthesis]. When they say that to me it makes me feel really, really good."