The making of Pippie's miracle
RIDWAN Mia first knew he wanted to become a doctor while visiting an uncle during school holidays.
It was in Dr Anwar Mia's clinic in Mahikeng, North West, that the plastic surgeon, who has become a hero in the past two weeks, learnt about the craft of healing.
Mia assisted his uncle with "small procedures like removing moles and circumcisions". Inspired by the experience, he went on to study medicine at Wits University, specialising in plastic and reconstructive surgery.
And it is Mia who has been one of the central actors in keeping three-year-old Isabella "Pippie" Kruger alive. He has kept her wounds clean for six months and last week operated to give her a whole new skin.
Mia - one of fewer than 200 plastic and reconstructive surgeons in the country - became the first South African to use laboratory-grown skin to cover a burn patient.
His new-found fame has not affected the 36-year-old; instead of talking about himself, he inevitably brings the conversation back to Pippie and other patients.
He speaks enthusiastically about plastic surgery, saying his work "really does make a difference".
Mia grew up in Johannesburg, spending his early childhood in Lenasia and later attending high school at Sacred Heart College.
The private school in eastern Johannesburg remembers its pupil well. Its website home page opens with a picture of a teenage Mia and the words "Congratulations to one of our alumni, Dr Ridwan Mia, who matriculated from Sacred Heart College in 1993, on the miracle of Pippie Kruger. Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family."
Mia now teaches in the plastic and reconstructive surgery department of Wits' Medical School.
He somehow fits teaching into a heavy schedule of consulting with patients for half the day and undertaking surgery, at either Helen Joseph, Chris Hani Baragwanath or Charlotte Maxeke hospitals, in the other half of the day.
But Mia - a bachelor who says he is "looking" - seems relaxed about his workload, thinking of it "not as work, but as things I do".
He is part of a close-knit family, with one of his brothers, Reza, also a doctor, who does non-invasive cosmetic surgery and sells skincare products.
Most of Mia's work is reconstructive, for example rebuilding the breast of a patient who has had a tumour removed, or doing cleft palate and lip surgery.
He gives his time and raises funds for the Smile Foundation, an NGO that arranges operations for children with cranio-facial injuries or deformities.
Mia says he has followed the example of his father, Sayed, a businessman who has always given to charities. He describes his mother, Farida, as a "real doctor" because she has a PhD in physiology.
So does the good doctor concentrate only on good works or does he ever adopt the role of glitzy plastic surgeon as portrayed in TV series such as Nip/Tuck?
Yes, says Mia, he does some cosmetic surgery - "the aesthetic work and the mommy makeovers. It pays the bills, for one".