By Farai Matiashe
Four years ago, Chido Tauzeni and Loveness Bhebhe were blessed with a baby they thought was a son at Harare Central Hospital.
Six months later when Bhebhe went for a routine check-up, the doctors told her that the son was hermaphrodite and tests were supposed to be done, but money was needed.
But they struggled to raise funds as they eked a living through informal businesses.
“At Harare Central Hospital, we were referred to Lancet Laboratories in the Avenues and at that health institution, they said there are karyotyping blood tests that should be done, which are pegged at US$324 cash or transfer from a nostro account,” Tauzeni said.
He said the blood tests were to be sent to South Africa for examination to check which genes were dominant between the male and female.
Hermaphroditism is a condition whereby one is born with two sexual organs — male and female.
Bhebhe said her son was living in pain.
“My son has a small male organ and another organ, which looks like a female one, which he uses to discharge urine. There are no testicles visible like other normal boy child. The doctors told us that his (testicles) are in his belly, and not in the scrotum, where they should be. He cries each
time he goes to urinate. I feel for my son,” she said.
Bhebhe said she wanted doctors to leave their son with whatever organ that was dominant, adding that the child currently has masculine traits.
At the age of four, the child was supposed to be in pre-school, but his situation cannot allow him to be at school with others as the child is always in need of special care.
Tauzeni, who is from Dotito in Mt Darwin, said it has been difficult to raise funds for karyotyping tests to be done as he was not employed.
“I survive on selling vegetables and fruits. It is now hard these days as our vending stalls were demolished in a recent operation. I live on a hand-to-mouth basis and I am failing to raise the money needed for the karyotyping blood tests,” he said.
Tauzeni said he has been seeking help from his family, neighbours and churches, but none has come to his rescue.
Documents shows that Bhebhe went to Childline Zimbabwe seeking help and he was referred to an organisation which deals with threats to family health and child survival, JF Kapnek Trust, which said it had no funds to support the child for karyotyping blood
“No current funds to support the child. (We are) planning to appeal to Lancet to conduct the tests for free,” part of the document from JF Kapnek Trust read.
Tauzeni said after tests, their son would have to be operated.
“I do not know if the operation will be done in Zimbabwe, but I pray that it is done locally because the situation will get worse if we have to go outside the country,” he said.
The couple is appealing to well-wishers for help so that their son is able live happily and to enrol in school just like other children.
A medical doctor, Josephat Chiripanyanga, said the causes of hermaphroditism were generally unknown.
“It is congenital. It can be some genetic mutations that happen when a child is still in her mother’s womb. There are some risk factors such as radiation, X-rays and teratogens, but generally, the causes are not really known, it can just happen to anyone,” he said.
“One might be having one prominent female organ or male organ. One might have both prominent, but usually it is one. One might have a vagina or a penis, that is visible.”
Chiripanyanga said there are scans which could be done to determine the sex of a person.
“We can do an ultrasound scan. If one has a male reproductive system, then essentially that person is a male, but if one has uterus and ovaries,
then that person is a female. What determines sex normally is the type of gonads,” he said.
Chiripanyanga said blood tests on sex hormones could also be done to determine someone’s sex.
“Both males and females have testosterone, but males have a higher concentration of testosterone and females also have higher concentration
progesterone compared to males. So blood tests are finally determining as compared to what one can physically see,” he said.
Chiripanyanga said there was need to do plastic surgery, which would remodel, thereby removing the dormant organ.
Public health specialist Stephene Karim said to correct the sex of a person, there was need to carry out plastic surgery in countries that have the capacity.
“We have partial capacity here in Zimbabwe. These plastic surgeries are done in multi-stages, so there are some stages we can do, but others we are incapacitated and we do not even have the competence,” he said.
Those willing to assist with funding can contact Tauzeni on +263772581173.