25th Mar 2017 5:55:49 AM

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Mohau Qumpula
Main Pic

Mohau is now ten years old, going on eleven. He had surgery on his right hand in December 2002 at Johannesburg General Hospital. Children of Fire visited him in ward 275, giving him some books to read, a Winnie the Pooh toy bear and a little Christmas basket of sweets made by the pupils of St Mary's School in Bryanston.

Mohau is still in need of a tissue expander, that is not normally provided by Joburg Gen these days, and in January 2003 the charity contacted his children's home and offered to cover the anticipated cost of some R3000.

Following many letters and phone calls, this little boy first came to the charity for assessment on Wednesday 2nd May 2001. He came with a social worker, his foster mother (even though he is placed in a children's home) and the head of the Eben-ezer Children's Home in Vereeniging. Mohau (meaning 'mercy') was placed in the children's home in 1999. Both his parents are dead 'from natural causes' - One in a car accident. They did not die in the fire in which he was burned, but some years afterwards. It is believed that Mohau still has some siblings 'living on the plots' but no social workers has made any effort to locate them. The charity asked for fuller details of his background to be provided; for contact to be made with the initial social worker (and if she was not helpful, contact also to be made with her supervisor). Sadly this did not happen.

We took photographs of Mohau's damaged hand, damaged foot, and overall pictures of body, head, etc to forward to surgeons for advice. We asked if Mohau picks at a red depression by his knee and they said that he does. We warned him about the potential for severe infection there if he does not stop.

We had hoped to arrange Mohau's surgery but due to a lack of volunteers in relation to our case load, Edith Morake, director of the Child Care Centre, had to do the work.

His damaged ear can be reconstructed with cartilage, but might have to wait a while longer because of his small physical size and many demands upon the charity's funds. His existing ear doesn't look bad, but would be relatively easy to fix. Mohau's hand was a much bigger problem and again highlighted the need to splint properly when a child is first injured. It contains the first few bones in the hand that lead on to fingers, but it was not easy to determine how much use could be regained. A skin graft would release the severe contracture and the charity considered such a procedure is essential and humane. But it was a matter of finding a suitably skilled and willing surgeon. Mohau's foot could be improved. It is a fused mess but toes are within that mess and some of them could be separated out. He can walk reasonably well, considering the foot and quite extensive scarring on the leg, but if he is tired or can't be bothered, he seems to drag the leg. It seems twisted and if left untreated, would lead to longer term damage to the hip area and considerable pain. He can bend the leg fully at the knee.

Special shoes are an option, but that is a lifelong financial commitment (and time and transport) to make regular visit to specialists. The charity thinks a surgical solution to improve Mohau's foot, leg and joint should be pursued, with the option, if need be, of special footwear later.

The children's home said that they would forward the charity a hard copy of Mohau's foster placement certificate and his birth certificate, but did not do so The birth certificate was based simply upon a guess - making him eleven years old in February 2003 - but actually no one has a clue as to his real date of birth (except possibly the untraced-siblings). Mohau is friendly, with a cheerful, impish grin and looks as naughty and nice as most nearly-11 year olds are. When we first met at around age nine, he happily sat on my lap but only spoke about three sentences in English, and it was not clear that he even understood those. 21 months on, his English is much better and he also speaks Sesotho and understands Afrikaans.

Mfundo (another burn survivor) took Mohau to see the cottage as the place where he might have stayed - but on reflection, he was thought too young to stay there unless we had another older child visiting at the same time and so Mohau would share my son's bedroom.

The children's home said at age nine that Mohau had a problem with bed-wetting. It seemed that he maybe hadn't then got one person to really bond with, in place of his biological family, and that he needed to feel happy and secure. The problem was long-gone by January 2003.

In 2001, the charity gave Mohau a teddy, a purse, a T-shirt for him and one extra for him to give to his best friend.

Bronwen Jones, Auckland Park, May 2001 and January 2003.


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This material is Copyright The Dorah Mokoena Charitable Trust and/or Children of Fire , 1998-2017.
Distribution or re-transmission of this material, excluding the Schools' Guide, is expressly forbidden without prior permission of the Trust.
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