4-month wait to get mouth cancer surgery
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.