13 April 2018

Secunda schoolgirl smiles through her pain – even though hospitals have no space for her

She looks like most school girls. Young, bubbly and happy.

She looks like most school girls. Young, bubbly and happy.

But when Bianca Fourie (16) turns her back you almost can’t believe that this smiling girl with the skinny arms is carrying such a heavy burden.

Because in between her smiling, she’s struggling to breathe and writhing in pain almost all of the time.  

Bianca, a learner at Oosterland High School in Secunda, was born with scoliosis, which means her spine is curved sideways.

Bianca’s father Gustav also has the illness but his condition is not as severe as his daughters.

Her spine has curved 130° to the side and her upper body is almost entirely deformed, says her aunt, Annetjie Opperman. It’s so bad that Bianca’s ribs press onto her lungs and cause her to struggle to breathe. She has to be attached to an oxygen machine on the hour so that she can breathe properly.

Bianca’s condition has worsened so much in the past few weeks that she couldn’t return to school for the second term of her grade nine year.

Where holidays are usually a time for children to relax and play, that wasn’t the case for Bianca.

On one occasion during a school holiday where her family was sure they would lose her because she just could not breathe. Then there was the time she told Annetjie that her “legs just couldn’t anymore”.

“She can’t even lift her arms above her head anymore, because it’s just too sore. She gets tired really quickly and eats practically nothing. She lies down most of the time,” says Annetjie.

“Things are not looking good.”

Annetjie recalls how Bianca’s mother, Madeleen took her to physiotherapist yesterday in the hope that he could give her breathing exercises. The physiotherapist did not even want to touch her because she could see how in how much pain Bianca was in. Madeleen then took her daughter to the doctor where she received an injection to help ease the pain.

“Last night when I spoke to Bianca she cried because of the pain. It’s all being caused by her curved spine. On top of that she now has inflammation between her ribs. All because of the scoliosis,” says Annetjie says tearfully.

Bianca’s parents Gustav and Madeleen don’t have medical aid. In 2015 they visited the Steve Biko state hospital in Pretoria.

“We visited specialist after specialist. The best they could do for us was to tell us that her spine should be in traction for three months to try and straighten her spine out as much as possible. After that’s she needs to undergo an operation during which screws will be placed in her back.

According to Annetjie, Bianca has been on the waiting list for a bed – so that her spine can be placed in traction – at Steve Biko since 2016. All their phone calls go unreturned when they call and ask when Bianca will be helped.

At the time of going to press Lovey Mogapi, spokesperson for Steve Biko hospital, had not yet commented on why Bianca has been waiting treatment for so long.

“They (the hospital) gave us so much hope and now it is too late,” says Gustav.

The only hope the family has now is to try and get Bianca treated at a private hospital, but that is going to cost hundreds of thousands of rands that they just don’t have.

“I only hope that Bianca can hang in there until we get her some help. Because that is the only hope we have.”

“The other day she asked me if when her spine is fixed, if her heart will hurt less. My biggest fear is that her other organs ill start to give in.”

“She is a precious child. In spite of everything, she’s always laughing.”