Distraught family seeks state help for son’s bizarre sleeping illness

2013-03-18 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG family is living in a state of constant anxiety because of their son’s bizarre health condition.

Callie Calitz (50) suffers from a rare medical disorder – narcolepsy, cataplexy and sleep apnea — it is a mouthful but it is no joke.

He falls asleep whenever and wherever. Even in the middle of a conversation, parts of his body go slack as if he is paralysed. He has absolutely no control.

For Calitz it has had devastating consequences — he had to give up his teaching job of 25 years and his live-in accommodation at the Standerton High School hostel.

His pupils were scared of him and his colleagues found his behaviour unnerving. His headmaster suggested that he be medically boarded.

Calitz cannot drive as he could kill himself or someone else on the road. The condition is believed to be triggered by a traumatic event, which may have been his divorce a few years ago.

At present he is without any medication for the condition because his medical aid, GEMS (Government Employees Medical Scheme) does not recognise the condition as chronic. He ran out of benefits in January.

A GEMS adviser said that Calitz should upgrade his scheme, but he cannot afford to. His only option is to lodge an appeal with the Council for Medical Schemes.

Earlier this year, his parents brought him to Pietermaritzburg to try and get him some help at the local government hospitals.

Calitz desperately needs special medication from a specialist neurologist. His previous neurologist is in private practice and Calitz can no longer afford to see him.

Dr Pieter Kritzinger, a private neurologist in Pretoria, referred Calitz to state hospitals for further treatment. In his referral he says: “Calitz has been medically boarded from work and suffers from chronic narcolepsy and cataplexy.

“He is unable to continue with any kind of work until his condition is under control. The condition is incurable and his disability is irreversible.”

The doctor lists the medicines that Calitz needs to keep his condition under control.

Calitz was told the waiting list to see a neurologist at Steve Biko Hospital in Pretoria was two years long. The family decided to intervene and get him help in Pietermaritzburg, but he was pushed from pillar to post between Townhill and Grey’s hospitals.

At these hospitals he was told he was not eligible to receive medication because he was already a member of a medical aid scheme, even though his benefits had expired.

He needs tri-cyclic anti-depressants for the cataplexy and modafinil (Provigil) for the narcolepsy. This is a schedule 7 medication and costs about R3 000 a month.

Family spokesman Patrick Steyn said: “He is a living time bomb. He has often fallen asleep with a cigarette in his hands. He is so depressed. Even doctors look at him strangely as they have never encountered anyone with his condition.”

Episodes are triggered whenever Calitz experiences high emotions like anger, sadness and happiness.

KZN Health Department spokesperson Sam Mkhwananzi said that access to health services was enshrined in the Constitution and it seemed strange that Calitz was not able to access medication.

“I do not know the exact circumstances of his situation, but I can only speculate that perhaps he should have been admitted and treated as a casualty and his case investigated. It looks as if there has been a procedural complication. We do not deny treatment to sick people, but there are procedures to be followed.”

Mkhwanazi urged the Calitz family to contact his office.

• trish.beaver@witness.co.za

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.