Will I not die from this?

2010-07-04 12:23

“Andizufa gqirha (Will I not die from this, doctor)?” asks the trembling ­15-year-old as Dr Mzekelo Godongwana dresses the wound on his penis.

Godongwana assures the boy he will be fine and must wait for the front third of his penis to fall off, but the boy ­demands that it be cut.

The teenager from Nkonkoni, Libode, is one of 18 would-be initiates at the St Barnabas Hospital whose circumcisions have been botched.

The initiates with gangrenous penises take over the four wards, leaving little space for other ­patients. Every year in June and ­December the male surgical wards are filled by initiates.

An overwhelmed nurse in one of the wards says she intends to take leave around this time next year, describing the current situation as the worst yet.

Godongwana jokes that he is ikhankatha (a traditional nurse) as he dresses some of the initiates’ wounds.

The 15-year-old, who cannot be named, went with five friends to a local ingcibi (traditional surgeon), a man called Mtshayina Ndoda (this is ­believed to be his nickname).

The boy does not know what happened to his friends.

“We stole chickens from Mtshayina’s house for him to circumcise us,” he says.

Traditional surgeons charge an upfront payment of R50 or a live chicken to perform the ritual.

The boys stole Mtshayina’s chickens and later offered them back to him as payment.

“I saw others wanting to be men and I joined them.”

His father died a few years ago and he lives with his mother and elder brother.

The boy’s condition was worsened by severe beatings at the hands of his ikhankatha after he refused to eat.

He’s one of the lucky initiates; his penis will be only partially amputated.

Not so lucky is Mpendulo Mphathi* who, Godongwana believes, might not be able to have an erection ­because of the damage inflicted to his penis.

Mphathi, from MaMpondomiseni, also in Libode, left school early and worked as a shepherd for a better-off family – a job that paid him R400 a month.

He identifies his ingcibi only as “Zulu” (the surname) from his village.

For his troubles he blames drunken MaMpondomiseni youths who visited his ibhoma (the makeshift shack where the initiates stay) and acted as ­traditional nurses.

“They beat us for no reason,” he says.

Mphathi’s father is also dead and he lives with his mother and elder brother.

When Godongwana dresses the damaged penis, the boy shuts his eyes, clearly in pain.

In the same ward as Mphathi is ­another initiate, a 15-year-old from Nyandeni. The boy has a badly swollen knee – the result of a cruel beating by his traditional nurse.

Another initiate, a 16-year-old from Nyandeni, had complications due to Type 1 diabetes which had gone undiagnosed because he didn’t have a pre-circumcision medical examination.

He does not know the name of his ingcibi.

He was brought to St Barnabas by his elder brother, who rescued him from the initiation school.

Sibulele Manana* (20) from Ma­Mfengwini, was circumcised on June 15 and admitted to hospital 11 days later.

His penis is unrecognisable.

Godongwana gently fits a catheter onto the damaged organ.

The tissue is ­exposed and most of the skin is hanging by a thread.

Godongwana pulls off some of the flaky, hardened skin.

Manana asks Godongwana: “Isn’t this painful when you insert it?”

“Be strong,” Godongwana encourages him. “Yiba yindoda (Be a man).”

Manana was in his ibhoma with nine other initiates. Only five had ikhankatha. He was among those without ikhankatha and was briefly nursed by whoever came from his village.

Manana insists his circumcision was coming along well until last Sunday, when his penis became swollen; his testicles followed suit on Monday.

All he wants from the hospital is ­help so that his situation improves.

*Not their real names

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