Mom denied much needed grant for her child

2015-06-04 20:10
(Amanda Khoza, News24)

(Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Durban - If Anesia Thompson, 23, leaves her 1-year-old son Cian unsupervised, even for just a few minutes, he could suffocate. She has to keep constant vigil because her little boy has no voice, literally. 

He cannot cry, he can barely make a sound. His only "voice" is his facial expression, alerting his mother that something is wrong or that he needs something.

Now the daily battle for her son's survival has taken another knock, as her repeated attempts to access a grant to help Cian are proving unsuccessful.

When Baby Cian was just four-weeks-old he had a tracheostomy pipe inserted in his throat to help him breath after complications at birth.

Although she is relieved that he can breathe, the devise has left him unable to speak. Cian has had to learn other ways to communicate with his mother, and they have developed a makeshift sign language.

Not only has the young mother had to fight to keep her son alive, she has been in a bitter dispute with a government to try and secure a social grant so that she would be able to support her family.

The unemployed woman says she has applied for a care-dependency grant at the South African Social Service twice and both times has been turned down because the agency does not believe that Cian’s condition is a permanent disability and that he is “fully dependent” on her.

Thompson said she had to resign from her job at a call centre in Durban when she found out she was pregnant.

Dealt a major blow

The woman who shares a three-bedroom flat with her mother, two siblings and her son Caleb, 4, says she has been dealt a major blow and doesn’t know who to turn to next.

The family is so cash strapped that her daughter Chloe, 6, lives with Thompson’s best friend’s family in the same complex because she can’t afford to look after her.

“I found out that I was pregnant in June 2013. I had just started a new job. Everything was going okay until I found out that I was pregnant because he was unplanned. I started attending anti-natal clinic and everything seemed fine.

“I was induced at 42 weeks and I gave birth on March 25 2014 at King Dinuzulu Hospital. When Cian came out he was blue in colour and he didn’t cry, he made a stridor and there was a problem with the airway, no sound came out.”

The doctor who delivered Cian allegedly told Thompson that there was nothing wrong, but Thompson’s motherly instincts told her otherwise.

On March 26, just before the pair was discharged, a nurse brought Cian to Thompson and they both agreed that there was something wrong.

Thompson said doctors ran tests and X-rays of Cian's airways, but it revealed nothing, so they were referred to specialists at King Edward VIII Hospital.

“They inserted a endoscope and found a laryngeal web, a membrane holding his airway together making it hard for him to breath. They also found that he couldn’t talk because he had full glottic stenosis, the narrowing of the airways.”

Underwent three surgeries

Thompson and Cian were then transferred to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital for surgery.

“He underwent three surgeries and they all failed and when he was four weeks they inserted the tracheostomy pipe that saved his life.”

A week after they were discharged from hospital, with no money and struggling to take care of her son and two other children, Thompson applied for a care-dependency grant.

“I applied twice and both times were turned down. They told me that Cian was not dependent on me and my heart just broke because he cannot do anything on his own.

"When he cries he does not make a sound, I have to look at his facial expressions to see that he is okay.

“I have to physically clear the mucus from the pipe to prevent him from suffocating, if something goes wrong with the pipe he can die because he cannot breath on his own. I cried at the SASSA offices when they turned us down the second time. I am with him 24/7.”

This week Thompson appealed the applications being turned down, but she was informed she was not within the 90-day period and that she had to reapply.

'We desperately need the grant'

“I cannot get a job to support my family. We desperately need the grant because there is no income in this household, we cannot even afford to buy electricity in the house. Cian’s father, Warren, works and my mother works but they do not make enough to support us.

“I have had to take my son out of crèche because I cannot afford to pay, my daughter is living with my best friend’s mother because I cannot afford her. We are really struggling,” said Thompson.

The young mother said she is pleading for her case to be reviewed.

“I believe that my son has a physical disability and we should get a grant to assist us,” said Thompson.  

Cian’s doctor at Inkosi Albert Luthuli, Dr Shivani Singh, a Paediatric Critical Care Specialist, said she contacted various officials at SASSA requesting to know why the family had been denied the grant.

'I cannot do that, he is still a baby'

“The matter even escalated to senior management at the KZN SASSA offices. They told us that a tracheostomy was not a permanent devise and they wanted me to say he was going to need it until he was 18 before they gave him the grant. With his condition, I cannot do that, he is still a baby.

“We can perhaps look at his condition when he is six or seven, but until then I cannot predict what is going to happen to him,” said Singh.

She said the Thompson had told her how they had been sent from one office to another.

“My concern is that I have a lot of other patients who have a tracheostomy who have a disability grant because their condition is life threatening.

"We have experienced so many obstacles with this case and from a medical perspective there is nothing we can do further to assist. The problem is that when the social aspect of a patient’s life is not sorted out, it affects the medical aspect,” said Singh.

News24 has seen correspondence between Thompson and SASSA. Both letters from SASSA responding to her application for a care-dependency grant dated, October 8 2014 and another dated February 18 2015, inform Thompson that “after due consideration, we regret to inform you that your application has been unsuccessful”. 

KwaZulu-Natal SASSA spokesperson Vusumuzi Mahaye said according to the Social Assistance Act no 13 of 2004 a person qualifies for a care-dependency grant if the child requires or receive permanent care or support services due to his or her physical or mental disability.

“Despite the impairment, the child does not require nor does he receive permanent home care,” said Mahaye.

The agency would not be drawn on how many children with similar conditions had received a grant.

“We will be investigating the matter further,” said Mahaye.

Read more on:    sassa  |  health

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