Heart-warm­ing ef­forts

Young CHD suf­ferer helps raise aware­ness of dis­ease

Go! & Express - - News - QHAMANI LINGANI

AS A young girl liv­ing with a con­gen­i­tal heart de­fect (CHD) 12-year-old Unako Nt­shintshi is de­ter­mined to raise aware­ness about the dis­ease, es­pe­cially dur­ing Septem­ber which is Heart Aware­ness Month.

The George Ran­dell Pri­mary School pupil be­lieves that if de­tected early, CHD can be man­aged. Her mother, Nox­olo, said when she gave birth to Unako, she was ec­static with her lit­tle bun­dle of joy. She took her home, but af­ter five days, no­ticed that she was breathing heav­ily, sweated a lot and was al­ways asleep.

“She was al­ways sleep­ing and on the fifth day, she couldn't breathe and I took her to the doc­tor. From a pink baby, she turned pale and white.

“This is when she was di­ag­nosed,” said Nox­olo.

Unako had her first op­er­a­tion when she was just six weeks old.

A CHD means a child is born with an ab­nor­mally struc­tured heart and/or large ves­sels. Such hearts may have in­com­plete or miss­ing parts, be put to­gether the wrong way, have holes be­tween cham­ber par­ti­tions or may have nar­row or leaky valves or nar­row ves­sels.

“I get tired eas­ily when I do ac­tiv­i­ties here at school but I am lucky be­cause my teach­ers and class­mates un­der­stand. The palms of my hands are al­ways cold.

“I have spoon-shaped nails and my lips look pur­ple or very dark. The weather also plays a vi­tal role in how my lips look. Some peo­ple think I am just thin, they don't know about my con­di­tion,” said Unako.

CHD is a type of con­gen­i­tal dis­or­der (CD) or birth de­fect. “Al­though con­gen­i­tal de­fects af­fect many ba­bies, South Africa still does not recog­nise it or pri­ori­tise it as a health care is­sue in our coun­try, which is sad. We would like to see this change,” said Nox­olo.

She also men­tioned that a sim­ple pulse test for a child on their right hand could de­tect it from an early stage.

Some of the symp­toms are :

Too slow or fast heart­beat. Nor­mal is be­tween 100 and 160 beats per minute;

Ex­ces­sively sleepy and fall­ing asleep dur­ing feed­ing,

Pale, dusky and blue skin tone, Breathing too fast or slowly. Nor­mal is 40 and 60 breaths per minute;

Cold to the touch, es­pe­cially the hands and feet.

Onako's teacher, Beth Mokawem, de­scribed her as a young woman with lots of char­ac­ter.

“We love her!” said Mokawem. Nox­olo said they were look­ing for par­ents who had CHD chil­dren and look­ing at start­ing a sup­port group. To get in con­tact with her, call 073-363-7421.

Pic­ture: QHAMANI LINGANI

SUP­PORT SYS­TEM: Nox­olo Nt­shintshi and her 12-year-old daugh­ter Unako want par­ents of chil­dren with con­gen­i­tal heart de­fect to start a sup­port group. Unako suf­fers from CHD

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