Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
A MAKESHIFT cooking area made of zinc is what greets you when you enter the homestead. The only other “building” is a mud hut which is a bedroom and is partially thatched.
Inside the cooking shed sits three grown-up men and a woman around a small fire on tiny benches and stools. There is so muca cold air from all angles.
In one corner is a mound of blankets in the dust and from one corner peeps large eyes of a young boy. His face is so pale from being kept indoors, he gazes to the top of the shed with his eyes that seem empty, tired and are giving up. He doesn’t make a sound even when guests enter the shed but fidgets occasionally, a sign that he is alive.
This is the story of Tawana Ncube who is 15 from Fox Farm in Matobo District, Matabeleland South. According to his mother Mrs Sakhile Malaba, he was born a normal child but developed complications at two years.
“I gave birth to him and all was well, he then began to fall ill, he would have fits and we took him to the hospital where it was confirmed that it was indeed fits,” she said.
One day Tawana had a seizure and fell by the door side and injured his knee and that knee has not healed since.
The family took him to a hospital in Bulawayo where he was admitted for three months but eventually he was discharged.
According to medical records that Mrs Malaba has, the doctors diagnosed Tawana with epileptic seizures and he also has hydrocephalus.
Hydrocephalus is the excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain, the most common symptom in children is the increased circumference in the head or an unusually large head. The condition can damage the brain, causing physical and mental development problems.
He is taking medication for the seizures and nothing but a scan has been done for the hydrocephalus. Usually a shaft is inserted in the head to drain excess fluid. But this is not Tawana’s only predicament as last week, a new problem befell the boy as the parents reported that he was attacked by rats.
“We were sleeping last week when I heard some movements from him and I woke up to inspect and I saw small rats eating his feet. I chased them away and alerted my neighbours,” said Mrs Malaba.
The neighbour happened to be the chairman of Fox Farm Mr David Ndlovu.
“She tried to call me that night at about 10pm, but it seemed the phone had run out of money. However, she managed to call back after about 30 minutes and we immediately went to inspect with my wife, we were shocked as we had never seen anything of that nature. We know rats for biting on dirty fingers and not eating flesh like what they are doing to the young man,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Mrs Malaba said ever since that day, the rats have been coming at night and eating her son’s feet, fingers and arms. As a result he has developed deep holes on his arms. When she took the boy to hospital, Mrs Malaba said she was given paracetamol, betadine disinfectant and bandages and told to dress the wounds. What is hurting the mother is that at one point Tawana could speak and even attend school but his condition has deteriorated and he no longer speaks.
“He was once at school but as time went on they said he could no longer attend because his condition was deteriorating and he seemed not to grow. The fits also contributed a lot as he was always collapsing,” she said.
Tawana cannot not talk, walk and wash himself or use the toilet. His mother is responsible for everything about him.
Mrs Malaba said she was appealing for help especially to deal with the rats that are attacking her son at night. Rat bites can cause infection due to bacteria transmitted by the small animals. Research shows that most people who are bitten by rats are weak, normally children, the elderly, those with disability and the bedridden who cannot fight them off. Those willing to help can call Mrs Malaba on 0713764098.