Boy Graduates from Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital's Breathe Easy Programme | Western Cape Government


Boy Graduates from Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital's Breathe Easy Programme

31 January 2012

Hamza Ahmed of Athlone's long history with Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital's Breathe Easy Home Care Ventilation Programme has finally come to a happy end. The ten-year-old has been in and out of doctor's offices since he was two years old and has had countless surgeries.

Now Hamza can finally play outside with other children, sleep over at friends' homes and attend birthday parties, thanks to the Smile Foundation and the care he received at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital.

Dr Anita Parbhoo, Manager: Medical Services, said: "Hamza and his family have been through a long journey to get to this point. It is very rewarding to see that all the efforts put in by all the staff at the hospital has paid off to make such a difference in Hamza's quality of life. Our on-going partnership with the Smile Foundation has enabled this young boy to look forward to a brighter more care-free future."

Hamza was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, and midfacial hypoplasia - his mid-face had not developed properly.

"My husband and I had sleepless nights for about two years," his mother Farhana Ahmed said. "Hamza never slept well at night and struggled to breathe. He constantly had chest infections."

During this time Hamza was in and out of hospital with breathing problems. In 2003, his breathing difficulties caused his heart to fail. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit where a decision was taken to do a tracheostomy (a hole in the throat) to create room for him to breathe.

"I was so worried I didn't sleep at all that first night but I could see that Hamza was sleeping and breathing much better with the trache," Mrs Ahmed said.

Hamza stayed in hospital convalescing after the tracheostomy and doctors were unable to wean him off the ventilator. The Breathe Easy Fund, together with his community raised the funds for a home ventilator to be purchased. His mother had learned to become his nurse through the training by Professional Nurse Jane Booth as part of the Home Care Ventilation Programme.

The Breathe Easy Tracheostomy and Ventilation homecare programme has been running since 1989 and stands out as a model of providing quality health care to trache-dependent children. Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, which is the only stand along paediatric hospital in the Western Cape Government Health's stable, is the only facility in sub-Saharan Africa currently offering a homecare ventilation programme. Children, who are tracheostomy- or ventilator-dependent elsewhere in South Africa, have to be permanently hospitalised, at immense cost.


Fortunately, Hamza's mother graduated from the programme and two months later he was discharged. During the next year he was slowly weaned off ventilation.

Sr Booth said: "This family have been one of the outstanding examples of how a tertiary hospital can work together with the community to give a little boy quality of life despite his complicated medical problems."

Thanks to his family's excellent care at home, in 2007 he was able to go to school and began attending Vista Nova where he is a popular and active member of the class.

In 2010 Hamza was referred to the maxillo-facial clinic at the hospital and went for X-rays.

"Doctors discovered that his face was growing inwards," Mrs Ahmed said.

The only solution was surgery but the much specialised procedure was expensive and had to be carefully planned.

Thankfully the Smile Foundation came to the rescue offering to purchase the special distractors needed to bring his mid-face forward. During a nine-hour surgery the distractors were inserted in Hamza's jaw. These would gradually create space for his facial bones to grow normally.

The surgery was a success and several months later the distractors were removed. This has meant that his upper airway was clear for him to breathe through and, after additional follow up surgeries; his tracheostomy tube was removed in December 2011.

"We stayed overnight at the hospital and that night I was so overjoyed that I cried. I could not believe it. Hamza was sleeping well and was breathing properly without the trache," Mrs Ahmed said.

Western Cape Health Minister Theuns Botha said: "Hamza's story is an outstanding example of the world-class surgery and healthcare that the Red Cross War Memorial Hospital offers, and that with the commitment of the family, strategic partners such as the Smile Foundation and the health care workers we are better together. The investment that provincial government and the private sector makes in health care, can be seen in Hamza Ahmed. I salute his family and their dedication. They have shown what can be achieved with love and care."

When Hamza returned to Vista Nova in January he was greeted with applause.

"The receptionist, the teachers, everyone started clapping," Mrs Ahmed said. "Everyone was congratulating him and kept telling him that they were proud of him."

And now for the first time Hamza is enjoying freedoms that he hadn't before, such as playing outside with friends and going to sleep overs.

"I have to thank the Creator," Mrs Ahmed said. "Without him none of this would have been possible. I also want to thank Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, the doctors and nurses there who have always been wonderful and caring and the Smile Foundation who made the surgery possible."

Moira Gerszt, the Chief Operating Officer, of the Smile Foundation said: "The small part that we played in enabling this young boy to participate in his family and community activities is so heart-warming. This is what the Smile Foundation is all about - collaborating with skilled surgeons and the Academic Hospital, in giving a child the opportunity to enjoy just being a child and to play normally!"