A distraught Gugulethu mother, Babalwa Tafeni, says her one-year-old son, Siyanda, is in dire need of a liver transplant, but what troubles her most is that even if he gets one, he may not survive long.
Ms Tafeni, who resides in a one-roomed shack in Europe informal settlement, in Gugulethu, said doctors at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital warned that even if he got a donor quick enough, their living conditions could compromise his health. They are in desperate in need of a decent house with clean running water and an inside toilet.
The 32-year-old mother of three, who gave birth to her child in the Eastern Cape, in August 2015, told Vukani that while she was seven months pregnant doctors picked up some complications and informed her that her baby was not growing. She was immediately transferred to the maternity ward where she delivered the baby. Although Siyanda was born two months prematurely , she said she was discharged immediately after giving birth.
A day later, she said the child got sick, forcing her to return to the hospital.
“His eyes and tongue were yellow and he was sweating excessively, with the sweat turning his clothes yellow,” she said.
Ms Tafeni said the doctors told her that there were problems with his bile duct and they would need to perform surgery.
Anxious about the outcome of the surgery, she said the doctors told her that it had been a success. After the surgery, her baby’s stomach was swollen but doctors told her it would return to normal. But the swelling did not go down and that was when she decided to move the baby to Cape Town to get better treatment.
Ms Tafeni said she was puzzled when doctors at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital told her that the initial surgery had been incorrect. She said doctors advised her that Siyanda needed a “lifesaving operation” otherwise he would not survive beyond five years old.
She said doctors at the hospital had also written her a letter to submit to the provincial Department of Human Settlements, detailing her baby’s condition. Because of his disease, the letter stated that the toddler needed to stay in a decent house to avoid picking up infections.
Ms Tafeni had planned to submit the letter to the department once she had transport money. The family’s shack has no proper ventilation and inside there is no space for the child to play. They also share communal toilets with other residents.
Ms Tafeni said her husband is unemployed and their only source of income is the children’s social grants. She said what bothers her the most is the thought that her baby might not live long and that has made her spend most of her time playing with him. She also does not know how to explain to her other children that Siyanda may not reach adulthood.
“I appeal to anyone who might assist me with a house to do so while my child is still waiting for the liver transplant because if I had the means, I would buy the house myself,” she said.
Ntomboxolo Makoba Somdaka, spokesperson for Bonginkosi Madikizela, MEC for Human Settlements, said they have not heard about the matter, but she advised the family to ensure that they are registered for a housing subsidy and if not then they should do so, and on that housing form they should clearly state their plight. She then encouraged the family to submit the letter which they received from the doctors to the offices of the department for their perusal.
“I would also advise the family to engage with the ward councillor and City of Cape Town and inform them about this matter so that they can inform us on their behalf,” she said.