Granny ap­peals for as­sis­tance

. . . as widow grap­ples with tak­ing care of spe­cial needs child

Lesotho Times - - Feature - Pas­cali­nah Kabi

SEHLABENG – Trapped in a body of a new­born baby, lit­tle Ntšeliseng Taaso only weighs 4.3 kilo­grams even though it is now 36 months af­ter her birth­date.

De­spite her in­creas­ing age, Ntšeliseng has re­mained phys­i­cally and cog­ni­tively sim­i­lar to a new­born. Her head has grown faster than the rest of the body, and now weighs heav­ily over her gaunt torso. How­ever, un­like a new­born, she can­not make any move­ments since her spinal cord is stiff while her el­bow and knee joints are rigid.

As if her phys­i­cal chal­lenges were not for­mi­da­ble enough, Ntšeliseng – which loosely trans­lated means com­fort me – also has to con­tend with harsh liv­ing con­di­tions. Ntšeliseng’s mother died mo­ments af­ter giv­ing birth to her in June 2013, leav­ing her in the care of her un­em­ployed grand­mother ‘Mathabiso Taaso.

Nar­rat­ing her predica­ment, Ms Taaso (63) told the Le­sotho Times she never ex­pected to be­come a grand­mother for the third time in June 2013 as Ntšeliseng’s mother had con­cealed the preg­nancy. The 63-year old said she al­ready had a lot on her plate tak­ing care of her two other or­phaned grand­chil­dren aged 12 and six.

“I never knew that Ntšeliseng’s mother was preg­nant un­til the month of June in 2013 when she com­plained of se­vere stom­ach cramps. We rushed her to Tše­pong (Queen ‘Mamo­hato Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal) where she died im­me­di­ately af­ter giv­ing birth to Ntšeliseng,” Ms Taaso said.

“Shortly af­ter her birth, Ntšeliseng was put in an in­cu­ba­tor, and a few days later, she was re­leased into my care. Ntšeliseng’s weight was 2.4 kg at birth but to­day she only weighs 4.3 kg af­ter two years and six months.”

Ms Taaso said she never got the op­por­tu­nity to grieve for her de­ceased daugh­ter with med­i­cal bills to set­tle and a fu­neral to ar­range. Added to that, she also needed to take care of her phys­i­cally chal­lenged grand­daugh­ter.

“Up to now, we still have not yet man­aged to pay off all the med­i­cal and burial debts from 2013. As a re­sult, we are also not able to pro­vide food meal for lit­tle Ntšeliseng, which might be ag­gra­vat­ing her con­di­tion,” she said.

“All we can af­ford is 2.5 kg of bread flour per month which we use to make her a soft por­ridge which is nei­ther nu­tri­tious nor tasty.”

Burst­ing into tears, Ms Taaso said she ini­tially could not un­der­stand why her grand­child was not grow­ing “nor­mally” as other ba­bies do.

On top of the phys­i­cal ex­haus­tion of once again tak­ing care of three chil­dren in her six- ties, she also felt emo­tion­ally over­whelmed by Ntšeliseng’s con­di­tion.

“I suf­fered in si­lence and alone. I even re­sorted to hid­ing the child from pry­ing eyes. I told those peo­ple who man­aged to see her that she was three months-old when she was over seven months. I didn’t want peo­ple to even hold her,” Ms Taaso said.

“I took Ntšeliseng to so many doc­tors who turned out to be bo­gus since they lied to me that she would walk one day. It was only af­ter meet­ing a Pa­bal­long HIV/AIDS Care Cen­tre coun­selor (Matete Let­soso) that I be­gan to ac­cept her sit­u­a­tion.”

Be­cause of the gen­eros­ity of well-wish­ers in her com­mu­nity, Ms Taaso no longer spends sleep­less nights won­der­ing where her grand­daugh­ter’s next meal will come from.

“Since Ntšeliseng started drink­ing nu­tri­tious milk do­nated by ‘M’e ‘Malich­aba Lekhoaba, she looks much bet­ter. We sur­vive on do­na­tions from Pa­bal­long HIV/AIDS Care Cen­tre, good Sa­mar­i­tans like ‘M’e ‘Malich­aba and my neigh­bours,” she said.

Ntšeliseng was also a re­cip­i­ent of a spe­cial po­si­tion­ing chair on 19 De­cem­ber 2015, cour­tesy of Med­i­cal Ortho­tist and Pros­thetist Cha­beli Mo­hat­lane.

“The spe­cial po­si­tion­ing chair has en­abled her to move around and we are very thank­ful to Ntate Mo­hat­lane,” she said.

How­ever, Ms Taaso said she was still far from be­ing able to take care of Ntšeliseng’s needs, and urged well-wish­ers to come to her aid.

“Any help will be ap­pre­ci­ated. Giv­ing Ntšeliseng a bal­anced diet and a good place to stay should be the least we can do, but due to poverty we can­not,” she said.

On her part, Ms Let­soso de­scribed Ms Taaso as a te­na­cious woman who was will­ing to “go to the ends of the earth” to as­sist her grand­daugh­ter.

“I started work­ing with this fam­ily in 2014 and when I saw Ntšeliseng for the first time in Jan­uary of that year. At the time, her grand­mother said she was three months-old,” Ms Let­soso said.

“To­wards the end of 2014, Nkhono (grand­mother) ‘Mathabiso claimed Ntšeliseng was seven months-old and that was when I re­alised there was a prob­lem and de­manded to have a meet­ing with her.

“On the first day I vis­ited her house, Nkhono ‘Mathabiso broke down in tears and it im­me­di­ately be­came ap­par­ent that she had been fight­ing a lone bat­tle.”

“Nkhono ‘Mathabiso is a strong woman who just needs help to feed Ntšeliseng and her two other or­phaned grand­chil­dren,” she said.

De­spite her in­creas­ing age, Ntšeliseng has re­mained phys­i­cally and cog­ni­tively sim­i­lar to a new­born.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.