SIXTEEN-YEAR-OLD Bridget Zireni from Buhera stares into space, as she recalls how she lived for almost four years with a protruding stomach after developing an abnormal growth which caused her grief, untoward pain and stigma from her community.
BY DERICK JAIROSI
“At first, people thought I was pregnant only to realise and understand my situation, as my stomach did not stop from growing and it was so unbearable on my part, as my stomach was now too heavy for me to move for a long distance,” she said in a soft voice.
The teenager, who grabbed the attention of the nation when her plight was beamed on national television, can now breathe a huge sigh of relief after undergoing a successful operation at Chitungwiza Central Hospital (CCH).
CCH chief executive officer, Obadiah Moyo, offered free medical treatment needed for her operation.
The girl narrated her plight explaining how a bloated stomach, which started developing in 2015, had made her life unbearable, as she could not move for long distances and also had trouble eating.
“The doctors said my body mass had increased to 52kg because I had developed 18,5kg pelvic mass, which had caused me problems, but I’m now recovering well and my current body mass is now 37,5kg showing that soon I will be fully recovered,” she explained.
Bridget also said that she had suffered stigmatisation and discrimination from the society and this has affected her family’s social standing in the community.
Many people speculated that she might be haunted with evil spirits and this had caused her to be stigmatised against wherever she went.
“In my community, many people thought I was haunted with evil spirits, but I appreciate my parents and other family members who were supportive to me in my difficulties,” she said.
“They were not able to source funds needed for my operation, but they never stopped trying to seek financial assistance and it is through their endless efforts that today, I’m in the current recovery state.”
Not only did the young girl have to contend with stigmatisation, but she had to drop out of school.
According to a medical review on abdominal mass by April Kahn, it is an abnormal growth in the abdomen.
An abdominal mass also causes visible swelling and may change the shape of the abdomen.
A person with an abdominal mass may notice weight gain and symptoms such as abdominal discomfort, pain and bloating. It’s a condition which can be a result of a number of factors, including an injury, cyst, benign tumour, cancer, or other diseases.
But in most cases, this condition has led to stigma and discrimination on the part of the victims, as many fail to understand the nature of this condition.
And this was the case in dealing with Bridget’s condition.
Davious Zireni and his wife Nellia Mupangani had made endless efforts to seek medical assistance from several organisations for the operation of their daughter, Bridget, who could not be treated because they failed to raise the required fee of $600.
It was unfortunate for the girl as both her parents were unemployed, making it difficult for them to source funds needed for her to undergo surgical treatment.
Bridget’s parents decided to appeal to the public for financial assistance and through the media, they managed to grab the attention of many wellwishers who provided funds for her to receive treatment.
Bridget’s condition started in 2015 and her mother said the family had almost lost hope, as they had made endless efforts and were turned away each time they sought medical treatment, as many health institutions demanded cash upfront before treating her.
Last week, Bridget received positive feedback from some individuals and organisations who were willing to help her and, one of them was the wife of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga, Marry, who, together with her team [Musha Mukadzi], visited and helped the girl with all the blood supplies needed for the operation.
Doctors successfully removed 18,5kg from her stomach during the operation and now, she is recovering well.
“I was touched by the girl’s plight, hence the decision to assist her free of charge. In the past, we had similar cases of women who were attended to for free and have since recovered well,” Moyo said.
CCH has assisted other women who had suffered from the similar abdomen condition in 2014 and the first case saw Portia Tapfumanei, who had endured the ordeal of living with a pregnancy-like swelling, being operated on for free after most of her relatives, including her husband, abandoned her.
The second patient was Maidei Nemhara, who also managed to recover well after the operation.
Thereafter, many women came with similar conditions and were treated free of charge as a goodwill gesture from the hospital staff.
Messages have been pouring in, applauding the hospital for carrying out operation and medical treatment on Bridget free of charge.
Her parents were also short of words to express their appreciation to Moyo, hospital staff and well-wishers for the kind gesture.