4-month wait to get mouth can­cer surgery

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - NTANDO MAKHUBU

THE FAM­ILY of Am­ina Is­mail, 77, en­dures heart­break ev­ery day as they watch her go­ing through bouts of delu­sion, a side-ef­fect of med­i­ca­tion they are forced to give her for her con­stant pain be­cause of mouth can­cer.

As the can­cer shows signs of spread­ing, her fam­ily has be­come more des­per­ate for the surgery that could save her life and ease her suf­fer­ing – four months after it was sched­uled as ur­gent by doc­tors at Steve Biko Aca­demic Hos­pi­tal.

When she was di­ag­nosed with the can­cer in July and re­ferred to the hos­pi­tal, a med­i­cal team was as­sem­bled and a plan of ac­tion drawn up.

“There were sur­geons, anaes­thetists, maxi-fa­cial spe­cial­ists and oth­ers, who took her through a bat­tery of tests, scans and X-Rays, and said she had to be op­er­ated on im­medi- ately,” the woman’s daugh­terin-law Ra­dia Mur­ray said.

They ex­plained to the Lo­tus Gar­dens fam­ily how ag­gres­sive the can­cer was. They in­structed the fam­ily to bring her back in Au­gust, when she would be pre­pared for surgery.

“But they came and said there were no beds in the ICU, so the op­er­a­tion would be post­poned,” said Mur­ray.

Another date was set to bring her back, and the fam­ily did so, only to be told a few days be­fore surgery that there were no plas­tic sur­geons avail­able on the sched­uled date. “We were crest­fallen and she was dev­as­tated by the de­lay and its im­pli­ca­tions,” said Mur­ray.

The fam­ily has taken the pen­sioner back to hos­pi­tal, only to be told each time of one short­age or another at the 11th hour. “The last time we went there was two weeks ago,” she said.

The doc­tors ex­plained they needed to check how far the can­cer had pro­gressed. That wor­ried the fam­ily no end. “We can see her de­te­ri­o­rat­ing in front of our eyes.”

Is­mail, she said, had not had any­thing solid to eat in more than four months be­cause her jaws were locked to­gether. “She is on a liq­uid diet and has lost a lot of weight, and this is ex­tremely painful to watch.”

Her mother-in-law was also in con­stant pain, and be­cause there are no drugs but mor­phine to deal with the pain, they give it to her de­spite the hor­ri­ble side-ef­fects.

“Mor­phine makes her delu­sional and she vom­its vi­o­lently, so we avoided giv­ing it to her for a long time, but now we have no choice.”

Mur­ray has sent var­i­ous emails to the hos­pi­tal and last week sent an ap­peal to chief ex­ec­u­tive, Dr Ernest Kenoshi, who also failed to re­spond.

The fam­ily is frus­trated, more so be­cause they feel Is­mail is be­ing ig­nored. Mur­ray said they un­der­stood the short­ages but felt four months were too long not to have got those el­e­ments to­gether.

Dr Kenoshi failed to re­spond to ques­tions by the Pre­to­ria News. De­spite sev­eral at­tempts since last Wed­nes­day to get Gaut­eng Health spokesman Prince Ham­nca to find out when Is­mail could be op­er­ated on, none were forth­com­ing.


Am­ina Is­mail, 77, has mouth can­cer.

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