HE is only three years old but this little body has been pricked with injections for hours on end. He has gone through a transplant and suffered terrible after-effects of chemotherapy, which triggered bouts of diarrhoea — at its worst 26 times a day.
BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
This week he was passing blood because his intestines have bleeding ulcers.
But in the midst of it all there has been an outpouring of support for Nathan Sanyanga from his family, friends, church and strangers from all over the world.
The youngest of the family, Nathan has been battling a rare genetic condition called Fanconi anemia, which required him to have a bone marrow transplant in India. His family launched an appeal to raise funds for the little boy who was only two years old at the time.
With a deadline to beat, the family went all out and touched the hearts of many who gave towards the cause including the health ministry. His story was shared in the media as well as various social networking platforms.
The family flew to India in March and Nathan’s b elder brother Raymond would be his donor for the transplant. As the rest of the Christian population was commemorating Good Friday, Nathan was being admitted at an Indian hospital.
“We were reminded of how our Saviour Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross and he uttered, “It is finished,” said Slyvia, Nathan’s mother.
In an act of selfless love Raymond shared his cells with his little brother after also enduring painful jabs and needles.
Slyvia and Eddie Sanyanga have remained resolute in ensuring that their little boy got the best attention and are grateful to those who have donated towards Nathan’s procedure.
“Nathan’s early diagnosis came to us as a shock. We were unprepared for the timing in every way and we feel that no matter how much we could have worked and saved, we would not have been able to meet the cost of Nathan’s treatment,” Sanyanga said.
The doctors had earlier on said that they wouldn’t need to worry about a bone marrow transplant until Nathan was six or seven which was about the time his older sister Natasha had one as well.
Natasha also had a rare condition which needed a transplant and went through the same process that Nathan is going through.
“What our brave three-year-old has taught me is not to give up. It has been a month after the transplant and it has been the most difficult month that we have faced as a family,” Sylvia said.
Nathan still continues to experience the terrible effects of chemotherapy.
“So we watched in anguish as Nathan passed diarrhoea 26 times a day. Stopped taking any food through the mouth and started feeding through a nasogastric tube. He couldn’t swallow with ulcers lining his mouth and his gut. He was very tired and stopped talking.
And then two weeks back he started taking sips of water and an energy drink that we gave him using a 10ml syringe and he continues to do this to date. He is still not taking solids,” Sylvia relates.
In the last few days according to Sylvia the bouts of diarrhoea moved to bouts of passing blood. Just pure blood — some of it with clots — and nothing else.
“He passed blood an alarming five times and we got really scared, then 10, then 50 over the weekend and we have since lost count,” she said.
But the brave little boy does not groan, nor cry, like is expected of children his age.
“He now has sores on his bottom and so we gently clean him up and after a terrible bout, I take him in my arms and whisper in his ear that everything is going to be alright.
I tell him how proud I am that he is such a strong and brave boy and that Jesus is going to make him well,” said Sylvia in a heart-breaking revelation.
The young parents have gone through a lot with Nathan’s mother curving to the pressure and being admitted after suffering a severe migraine.
But he husband took over and for seven whole days stayed with Nathan and changed his diapers, fed him, watched cartoons with him and made intermittent visits to see Sylvia when Nathan was asleep.
Nathan has continued to pass blood but the doctors there are doing everything they can to stop the bleeding. He has been getting blood transfusions when necessary and is being been given nutrients intravenously since he is not taking any food.
On social media Nathan’s battle for life continues to be shared and many prayer vigils are being held in various parts of the world for the little boy who is oblivious of all the attention.
The public health system in Zimbabwe is among the worst in Southern Africa. The facilities are operating without the most basic equipment.
This has resulted in many people seeking help from faraway places where there are better facilities which are reasonably priced. Private care in Zimbabwe is out of reach for the general populace which is not on medical insurance. Specialist care is exorbitantly priced even for those with medical insurance.
The health facilities are also being manned by a disgruntled workforce, which occasionally downs tools to press for better working conditions.
During the nurses’ strike student nurses manned some of the critical wards. According to a health watchdog Citizens health Watch (CHW) there was an increase in deaths in some wards in major hospitals.
“The challenge is that student nurses are meant to provide nursing care only and cannot prescribe any drugs even a paracetamol yet they are the ones manning our facilities.
The working hours for these student nurses were overstretched and most complained of burn out. Some were starting work at 7am and only knocking off at 8pm with breaks in between. This in itself exposes patients to further risks,” said Fungisayi Dube of CHW.