When Abdul Hakim Madumbo was a year old he fell into a pool and his heart stopped beating.
Doctors resuscitated him but not before he suffered brain damage that confined him to a wheelchair. Hakim has since been diagnosed with spastic quadriplegia – the most severe form of cerebral palsy, affecting both arms and both legs.
His family, originally from Manenberg, but now living in Parow, have launched a public appeal to pay for stem-cell therapy in India, which they believe can help him.
They were enjoying a quiet Sunday in October 2018 when they noticed little Hakim had gone quiet. They searched for him. It was his aunt who found him. He was at the bottom of the pool.
The family’s efforts to revive Hakim failed. They rushed him to Netcare N1 City Hospital where doctors fought to revive the little boy.
Hakim regained a pulse and was transferred to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital’s ICU, where, according to his mother, Tasneem Swartz, doctors placed him in an induced coma for three days to allow the swelling on his brain to ease.
After three days, doctors woke him. He could breathe on his own, but he took a while to regain full consciousness. A week later, he could move his arms and legs, but the next week he turned blue.
“One morning, we got there and he had a seizure and he turned blue,” says Ms Swartz. “We needed to understand what was going on, and the doctors were busy with him so we googled, and I read that spasms were common after a brain injury.
“Two days later, doctors confirmed what we read and the spasms lasted for seven weeks. Nobody knew how to stop it.”
Meanwhile, the doctor who first saw Hakim at Netcare City Hospital was in regular contact with the family, and when Ms Swartz told him about Hakim’s seizure’s the boy was transferred back to that hospital.
Within a week, the seizures stopped, and the family flew to Netcare Hospital in Johannesburg for rehabilitation for their son in February last year.
Hakim progressed well until he had an operation to change his feeding tube. Hakim’s condition worsened, and he spent another few weeks in the ICU and thereafter went back to rehab.
During this time, the family flew from Cape Town to Johannesburg and back over and over as Ms Swartz still had to work to pay for bills the medical aid would not cover.
In May last year, the family came back to Cape Town and Hakim started neurological therapy at St Joseph’s Home for Chronically Ill Children in Montana as well as private therapy.
A month later, Hakim started hyperbaric oxygen treatment, which feeds oxygen to damaged cells in the body and is said to increase the rehabilitation process, according to Ms Swartz.
Towards the end of last year, she says, Hakim’s condition started improving after the family’s trip to India to receive medical care, and he was able to eat food. Now he is fully conscious but cannot move his limbs and is in a wheelchair.
“Last week, surprisingly, I tickled him under his feet and his foot moved so we are hopeful that he will regain his movement,” said Ms Swartz.
The family are raising money for Hakim’s continuous care as the oxygen therapy alone costs R15 000 a month and special milk R3 000 a month. They also have to pay for an occupational therapist and chirotherapy to ease Hakim’s spasticity. Now, they are hoping to apply for stem-cell surgery in India, which will cost R200 000 but which they hope will assist with Hakim’s neurological recovery.
The boy’s physiotherapist, Annemarie Steyn, said the surgery, which is not available in South Africa, will help the body to regenerate neurotypical cells, giving Hakim movement in his limbs again.
There will be musical show at the Bellville Theatre on Friday March 6 at 8.30pm to raise funds for the stem-cell surgery. The show will feature Shadley Schroeder and many others. Tickets are R100 each. For more information, call Ms Swartz at 073 433 0927.