A Story of the Power of Hope
Azingce Lolwana is a humble 6-year-old boy from Mthatha, Eastern Cape, where he lives with his father, mother, and younger brother.
Azingce was often taken to the clinic by his mother for routine check-ups when he was younger. He appeared to be a healthy and happy child growing up, a child who loved to play with his toys, until everything changed in 2017.
His mother observed that he was in poor health one day. She observed that he wasn’t quite himself.
This condition continued for some time. “Sasithi i-asthma ngoba bekehlale ekhwehlela” meaning, “We thought it was asthma because he was always coughing.” Azingce displayed symptoms generally associated with asthma-like coughing.
His mother, not knowing what else to do, took him to the clinic.
She decided to take him to a different clinic when she saw that his health wasn’t improving. Her son, Azingce, had gone from a healthy and happy child to a sickly child, a child whose “Weight did not match his age” she recounts.
She soon learned that it was his heart that was the problem. His heart wasn’t beating as expected.
She was given a letter at the clinic.
She and Azingce were sent to Dora Nginza Hospital in Gqeberha, where Azingce was admitted. His doctors discovered that he had a hole in his heart. He had a congenital heart disease (CHD) which indicated that his congenital heart defect, the hole in his heart, was present at the time of his birth on the 16 August 2015.
His doctors tried to close the hole in his heart using medications, pipes, and devices. None of these methods had a lasting positive effect on his well-being. His entire life together with that of his family was turned upside down. The possibility of him living a long life seemed uncertain at only 3-years-old.
Azingce underwent a surgical procedure in 2018. The hole in his heart, however, still would not close. The Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha referred him to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital in 2020.
Azingce and his mother, not knowing what the future held for him, travelled from Mthatha to Johannesburg. They were met with more challenges, which included being turned away from before he was finally admitted on the 19 November 2020.
He finally underwent open-heart surgery on the 29 November 2020. He spent 4 days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) after his operation.
When we asked him about what his time was like at the Hospital, he said, “Bekumnandi!” meaning, “It was nice!” His mother, remarking on their time at the Hospital said, “Konke kuhambe kahle”, meaning that “Everything went well.”
Similar to the greater part of our patients, Azingce was not left alone.
His mother stayed at the Ronald McDonald House, which today, stands as the first Ronald McDonald House in Africa. The House was established by the Ronald McDonald House Charities. The House has 27 bedrooms and consists of a dining room, playroom, kitchen, library, lounges and much more. The House was intended to provide a peaceful and supportive environment to families.
Both Azingce and his mother spent years walking in and out of clinics and hospitals searching for help and finding none. His doctors at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, who included the Head of Paediatric Cardiology, Dr Hopewell Ntsinjana, however, were able to help him. They were able to successfully close the hole in his heart.
Azingce and his mother did not give up.
His surgical procedure was a success. Azingce does not have to return to the Hospital. He may go to a clinic or hospital in his area if ever falls ill.