Zione and Mphatso Mkoloma’s one-year-old daughter Lerato was born prematurely at 31 weeks with a condition called Arthrogryposis. Like many mothers, Langa resident Zione doubted and blamed herself for Lerato’s condition. “I was very shocked and stressed about my daughter’s condition and I felt like the world is against me, but I accepted the situation and no matter how it may be, I’m her mother. I promised her that I will always be there for her,” Zione said.
Arthrogryposis is a rare condition that causes joint contractures in two or more areas of the body. Lerato’s feet and hands are affected. This means that she has syndromic clubfoot, which is challenging to treat and requires more casting.
Lerato was in the NICU for the first 10 days, and then in ‘Kangaroo Care’ for two weeks. Premature babies often require two weeks of skin-to-skin contact with the mother, like a kangaroo would keep her new born baby in her pouch.
After Zione gave birth she had ongoing health problems, and was often fainting and weak on the clinic days. A doctor at the clubfoot clinic helped Zione to get a referral for the medical care she needed. Her family was supportive and tried to be positive, and despite many challenges they never missed Lerato’s clubfoot clinic appointments.
It’s a year now since Lerato’s birth, and her clubfoot treatment continues under the care of the specialist team at Maitland Cottage Children’s Orthopaedic Hospital’s clubfoot clinic, supported by Steps Clubfoot Care. But like many other families, they are struggling with unemployment and the financial stress made worse by the long lockdown.
“When working at clubfoot clinics, we meet many dedicated parents who are making big sacrifices to ensure that their child continues to access the care they need to prevent disability, ” said Karen Moss, Steps founder and executive director. “Covering their transport costs means that they can come to the clinic without sacrificing their basic needs of food and shelter”.
Although her feet are looking great, there is a long journey ahead for Lerato and her family because she has a complex case. She still needs to have her wrist joints treated, but this has been delayed because of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Steps launched the Uthutho Fund to ensure that children like Lerato can access assistance to cover their transport costs to her clinic appointments, and PPE to keep her family is safe while they travel. The fund will also give food vouchers to needy families to help them stay healthy during this challenging time.