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Genetics

Updated 13 May 2019

Toddler with ball-shaped foot has ‘astounding enthusiasm’, mom says

The energetic toddler, who lives with his mother in Middelburg, has never been able to wear shoes

Little Nathan Ungerer (3) has already undergone four operations after being incorrectly diagnosed with a hereditary disease in his left foot.

The energetic toddler, who lives with his mother in Middelburg, has never been able to wear shoes.

But this might change after his fifth – and hopefully final – surgery in coming months which is aimed at reducing the size of his left foot.

Nathan was mistakenly diagnosed at birth with hereditary Milroy disease, or lymphedema. An MRI scan later revealed the problem was due to lipoma – a harmless fatty lump between the skin and underlying muscle tissue.

“So far the operations have been successful and his left foot is now much smaller. It did grow twice as fast as the right foot – which happens in Milroy disease – but we’re relieved it’s not hereditary and won’t grow any bigger,” said Nathan’s grandmother, Selona van Wyngaard, who’s from Roodepoort, Gauteng.

YOU visited the family in August 2017 before Nathan’s new diagnosis, when the series of operations to systematically remove the fatty tumour in his foot had already started.

Selona says Nathan and his mom, Soné van Aswegan have since moved to Middelburg, Mpumalanga, and travel to Johannesburg for his treatment at a West Rand hospital.

Selona beams when she talks about her daughter and grandson. “Soné looks after him so well . . . they stay on a farm and she’s met a wonderful man who’s good to them,” she says. Her daughter fell pregnant with Nathan in her teens.

This week a proud Soné sent a photo of Nathan horse-riding for the first time to her mother and all their supporters.

Nathan's foot after several operations.

“Nathan is always laughing, and keeps getting cuter,” Sone wrote.

“His foot will stay round, even after the final operation, but it doesn’t seem to bother him. I recently saw slippers that might fit him and wanted to buy them. But he’s never been bothered with shoes – I’m astounded by his enthusiasm each day.”

Image credit: Supplied