Heart surgery burden for young mother’s child

The Chronicle

Lumbidzani Dima, Chronicle Reporter
BEING a young mother is a burden on its own, but what really happens when you are told that your baby will not live beyond the age of five if they don’t undergo a surgery that costs beyond what you can afford?

Ms Violet Mabhena (22) from Bulawayo’s Tshabalala suburb lives to tell the pain of looking at her two-year-old baby daily, hoping that a well-wisher will come through and help donate for her surgery.

She told the Chronicle that she was not ready for a baby, but once she found out about her pregnancy, she started loving her daughter so dearly. Living in a society where teenage pregnancy is despised, abortion never crossed her mind.

Ms Mabhena gave birth in 2020 and the fear of losing the child haunts her.

“I admit I was not ready for a baby; no teenager is. I gave birth to my baby at the age of 20, and I loved her from the word go. I wouldn’t exchange her for anything in this world,” said Ms Mabhena who is employed as a pharmacy assistant at a pharmacy in the city centre.

Ms Mabhena said she only got to know that her daughter has a congenital heart disease when she was nine months old after eight months of being made to believe that she was healthy.

Congenital heart disease is a general term for a range of birth defects that affect the normal way the heart works. The term “congenital” means the condition is present from birth.

“I gave birth at Mpilo Central Hospital and my baby’s weight was 2,5kg which is normal. From there onwards she was normal, but her heartbeat was very fast, which the elders would say was normal for babies. I realised that this thing was not ending or fading. She would just get sick from nowhere.

One day when she was nine months old, I asked a nurse at a baby clinic if my baby’s heartbeat was normal, she referred us to another nurse who told us that Cathleen (the baby) has a pigeon chest and transferred us to Mpilo.

The following Monday I went to Mpilo, and the doctor who attended to her said we should conduct an echocardiogram (echo) scan, electrocardiogram (ECG) and chest Xray. We booked for the following week when those three tests were done, with ECG being conducted at a private institution,” she said.

Ms Mabhena said she was very traumatised when the doctor who conducted an echo told her that her child has a hole in the heart.

She was told that the hole was big and could not close on its own like in other situations, hence she had to undergo an open heart surgery.

“At that moment I was devastated and mostly confused because I didn’t know what he meant, I couldn’t even understand what he meant by a hole in the heart, I was just a teenage mother having my first baby and being told that she has a hole in her heart while I know that a heart is the part of the body that holds a person’s life was something else.

I didn’t even ask anything or look at my baby at that moment. Luckily my mother-in-law was there for me otherwise I would have collapsed as I felt like it was the end of the road for me,” she said.

Ms Mabhena started having those kinds of questions like why me? Why my daughter? Is it some punishment? She said she faces a lot of challenges as the baby has to be treated like an egg.

“She is always admitted. Last year she was admitted five times. Once she catches a cold she develops pneumonia, and she’s always put under oxygen support. She is too small for her age, in December she was 9kg, but her weight dropped because recently her weight was 6,8kg the weight of a 4-month-old while she is aged two.

Her medication is expensive, and the doctors are always reducing and increasing the dose saying the medication does not work much on her.

“I have to be cautious with her, she does not play outside, she does not play with others, she does not just eat anything, there are certain food stuffs that she has to eat. Sometimes I wake up at night just to check if she is still alive,” she said.

Ms Mabhena said the life she is living is more like she is mourning her daughter while she is still alive but she has faith and hope that someone can find it in their heart to offer to take her child for the surgery in India.

She said they have not raised any money yet, they have only succeeded in getting passports for the two of them.

She said her daughter has to undergo a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) closure, a surgery that can only be done in South Africa and India. After evaluation they realised that it’s cheaper to go to India, costing about US$15 000 which they cannot afford at all.

Any well-wishers can contact Violet on 0776058097.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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