Mohamed Abdulle still has the fang marks from the snake attack on his face, but he can now close his mouth again and give a genuine grin.
A Somalian refugee can truly smile again thanks to doctors in Texas.
Mohamed Abdulle was bitten by a 12-foot snake at a camp near Somalia’s border with Kenya when he was just 10 years old.
The massive serpent bit his face and tried to swallow him whole, the now 30-year-old Abdulle recalled through an interpreter on Monday.
He tried to fight it off, and his screams woke up the other refugees. They were able to wrestle the serpent away and kill it.
But the attack left him without an upper lip for almost two decades. He was unable to close his mouth, which bled often, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also had a difficult time eating and speaking.
Abdulle moved with his brothers from refugee camp to refugee camp in Kenya and Uganda after they fled their home country of Somalia. He was told over and over again that doctors could not repair his face.
After he arrived in the U.S. in 2010, doctors from Fort Worth, Texas, performed a life-changing surgery to rebuild his mouth and help him live a normal life.
On Monday, Abdulle reunited with surgeon Dr. Fayette Williams and orthodontist Dr. John Kelley at John Peter Smith Hospital. He said the men have become like fathers to him.
“He thanks God and the two doctors,” said Asli Parker, who interpreted for Abdulle. “You can’t imagine how happy he was after his surgery. His dream had come true.”
Williams performed a “vermilion switch flap,” which involved taking part of his bottom lip, turning it upside down and reattaching it in place of the upper lip. This kind of surgery is often used on patients with lip cancer.
“I looked at his lip and said, ‘I think I can help you,'” Williams said, according to the Star-Telegram. “I could see his smile, even without an upper lip. Neither of us spoke the same language, yet we understood each other from that moment on.”
During the surgery, doctors took a piece of the bottom lip, flipped it and used it to replace the missing top lip.
Kelley explained that Abdulle also needed dental work, which is where he came in. Abdulle had some of his teeth removed and was given braces to realign the ones on top.
“We use his example to encourage other patients that, when things are tough, you can dig down deep,” Kelley said. “He had to fight for himself; his courage, resilience and human spirit are unique.”
Abdulle and his two brothers fled war-torn Somalia on foot when he was 8 years old. They moved from camp to camp in Kenya and then Uganda before Abdulle was selected for refugee resettlement.
He now works at a poultry plant in Nacogdoches, Texas, but Parker said Abdulle would look to relocate to Fort Worth, which is where his brothers live.
The future looks bright for Abdulle. His braces were recently removed, and, according to Parker, he is ready for marriage.
“I thank God my time was not finished,” Abdulle said, with Parker translating.