Blessing Makwera from Zimbabwe is being helped by surgeons at SHARP Memorial Hospital in San Diego who utilized Medical Modeling's VSP® services in an effort to rebuild his upper and lower jaws in a 12-hour surgery this past Saturday.


GOLDEN, Colo., (March 6, 2013)—Twenty year old Blessing Makwera suffered a tragic accident at the age of fifteen which left him without much of his upper and lower jaws, tongue, lips and teeth. Blessing has traveled from his native Zimbabwe to San Diego in hopes of a new lease on life. Operation of Hope is the California-based non-profit that is organizing Blessing's surgical care, including transportation to the US, donation of all surgical services by his surgeons and donation of all hospital services by SHARP Memorial Hospital in San Diego. It is expected he may require three surgeries in a staged order to fully rebuild the structure and function of his face. The surgical team at SHARP Memorial Hospital, lead by Dr. Joel Berger, reached out to Medical Modeling on Tuesday of last week to see if they would be willing to provide assistance for Blessing's first surgery, planned for Saturday. Medical Modeling's VSP® technology allows surgeons to accurately simulate complex reconstructive surgery in the computer. Customsurgical instruments are then designed to be used in the operating room to help carry out the virtual plan in the physical world.

The next steps between Wednesday and Saturday were like a well-choreographed dance between the surgical team in San Diego and the engineering staff at Medical Modeling's headquarters in Golden, Colorado. Blessing's CT scans arrived in Golden at 10am on Wednesday and Medical Modeling's engineers immediately began to extract the useful anatomy which would be needed for the surgical plan. By noon on Wednesday the team in San Diego and the team in Golden were on a webmeeting, both viewing Blessing's medical images on screen at the same time. Over the course of an hour the team mapped out the surgical plan, including taking bone from Blessing's leg (the fibula) and fashioning it into a new upper and lower jaw. This procedure, known as a fibula free flap, would allow surgeons to take bone, tissue and vessels from Blessing's leg and re-attach the vessels in his neck, allowing the tissue to thrive in it's new location. Once the surgical plan was complete the engineering and design teams at Medical Modeling designed the surgical tools which would be needed to carry out the surgical plan. The surgicalinstruments were created using an additive manufacturing process called stereolithography, forming each tool and guide one layer at a time until complete.  By Thursday afternoon all the physical tools were complete and a box wasovernighted to San Diego. Surgeons reviewed the physical templates, guides and models Friday in advance of Saturday's surgery to make sure they were perfect.  

Following Saturday's twelve-hour surgery Dr. Joel Berger stated, "The surgical planning and guides that you constructed allowed the two surgical teams to efficiently and quickly reconstruct the defects. The models, guides and templates were accurate, set very nicely, and allowed the surgery to go through without a hitch."

Medical Modeling's VSP® technology is used by surgical teams when planning complex cases such as Blessing's and for more routine surgeries such as orthognathic movements of the upper and lower jaws. "We feel fortunate to have played a small role in the success of Blessing's first surgery. Our whole team wishes him well on his journey forward", stated Andy Christensen, Medical Modeling's President.

More information on Operation of Hope can be found online at

About Medical Modeling
Medical Modeling Inc. is a world leader in the production of custom surgical solutions combining medical imaging data with additive manufacturing technology. Based in Golden, Colorado, the company's services span the fields of orthopedic surgery, spine surgery, cranio-maxillofacial surgery and neurosurgery. The company helps surgeons provide better care to patients through advanced surgical planning combined with custom, tactile models, guides and templates. More information on Medical Modeling can be found at

Media Contact: Lauren Pedersen, +1-303-273-5344, [email protected]