Life is simpler as a child—before status, power or wealth has any bearing on you.
I was six years old and halfway into Grade 1 and became gravely ill. My Sister and I had our tonsils removed in the hospital together. Her recovery was quicker than mine whilst I wasn’t getting any better. As a nursing sister that worked at night shift, my Mom slept during the day. I stayed off school with my Mom to recover from the operation.
One morning, my Mom and I were sharing a grapefruit while sitting up in the bed. She asked me to fetch a cloth from the kitchen. I told my Mom to count how fast I could run to the kitchen and back. As I stood in front of my Mother holding the cloth, she asked why I was breathing so fast. I explained I ran as fast as I could to fetch the cloth. My Mom took out her stethoscope and listened to my heart. Pressing the cold metal against my skin—first on my chest and then on my back—she listened intently.
She knew something wasn’t right.
Although I had no pain or any outward signs of being sick, my Mom’s face was my cue. My Dad came home from work immediately and we rushed to the doctor’s office. The doctor listened to my heart from every angle possible. He performed an ECG which confirmed their fears. I had advanced Rheumatic fever. My heart had enlarged, hardly beating like blubber, it filled my whole chest cavity.
Our house doctor called The Johannesburg Children’s Hospital. It was residence of the best paediatric cardiology specialists in the country. A team, including a paediatric cardiologist, were on standby for our arrival. There was no time to wait for an ambulance. My Mom carried me to the car and my Dad rushed us to the hospital. My Mom was holding me in her arms, fingers on my wrist to feel my pulse and her ear close to my mouth to listen for my breathing.
My heart stopped beating three times with no pulse while I was in my Mom’s arms. At the hospital, I had to go through a barrage of tests and x-rays and placed in an oxygen tent. The specialists said to my Mom and Dad:
If he’s alive tomorrow, we’ll take it from there.
A nasty bug—streptococcus—normally resident in the mouth and throat, attacked two valves in my heart. My heart had to pump twice as hard to get enough blood through the broken valves, causing the heart to enlarge.
The next morning, my Mom and Dad came to see me in the hospital. My Mom gave me a small spiral-bound notebook and a pen. I pressed them up against my chest and exclaimed, “Are these for me!?” The appreciation and gratitude were evident for the gift.
That simple notebook and pen was the best gift I could have received. A toy or the like would not have been as memorable. The gift was thoughtful and caring. My Parents knew I loved writing and drawing. Those letters and drawings were shared every day when my Parents visited me in the hospital.
It took three months lying flat on my back to get better enough to leave the hospital. After six months I had to learn how to walk again. The Rheumatic fever left me with two broken valves, but I have been able to live a normal life. Except for getting tired easily, I have no other symptoms.
I am privileged and grateful for the quality care I received, my loving Parents, family, and friends, and for prayers answered.
Have an awesome weekend and please be generous! 😄
As always, thanks for reading 🙏