Cape Town 'teen mom' uses daughter's cerebral palsy to inspire others

2017-05-31 12:06
Gugulethu resident Nosphiwo Queeneth Gum was just 17 when she gave birth to her Cerebral Palsy daughter. Her daughter lived for just 10 years. Gum is now a youth counsellor and using her experience to help others. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

Gugulethu resident Nosphiwo Queeneth Gum was just 17 when she gave birth to her Cerebral Palsy daughter. Her daughter lived for just 10 years. Gum is now a youth counsellor and using her experience to help others. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town – When Nosphiwo Queeneth Gum gave birth to her daughter at 17, she could have hardly realised that one day she would be forced to say goodbye forever.

And that she would emerge stronger, no longer frightened about death, and able to help other youths with difficult life choices.

It was not long after little Simamkele was born in 2003 that doctors revealed she had Cerebral Palsy, a disorder that affects movement, motor skills and muscle tone.

- Health24: Cerebral Palsy

“I thought: is that a boy’s name? They took her to hospital, did tests, and it was just a scary thing for me because I didn’t know what was happening,” the now 30-year-old said on Tuesday.

She felt she had two choices – either stressing about it or accepting it.

“I realised that after everything, as young as I was, she is my child and that comes from a place where I didn’t really feel like I belonged anywhere and here I get given a responsibility.”

Gum is now a counsellor for Salesian Life Choices, a Cape Town-based social enterprise investing in youth.


She was speaking as the organisation launched the ’30 Stories in 30 Days’ campaign for June, which aimed to share the stories of extraordinary youths who had risen above difficult circumstances.

This was after cross industry market research revealed that people most commonly associated negative connotations when hearing the word youth, such as teen pregnancy, drugs and alcohol.

Gum said she named her daughter to reflect her acceptance of the situation and the gift that was brought into her life.

Doctors kept telling her to prepare for her daughter’s death. She felt only she would know when it was her daughter’s day.

Over the next decade, the hospital became their second home and Gum was very hesitant to share her daughter with the world because she did not want people to pity her.

“To me she was my child and she was normal.”

It was while she and her mom were preparing for the girl’s 10th birthday that her health started to deteriorate.

She refused to allow doctors to switch the life support machines off. After praying in her room, the girl passed away.

Little Simamkele in hospital, which became her second home. (Supplied)

“I used to be scared of death. It was such a peaceful moment. I now choose to celebrate her life,” said the Gugulethu resident with tears in her eyes.

“I think until today I have learnt that my situation is not who I am, it’s part of my journey. It teaches you a lot and you just have to keep fighting.”

The stories would be shared on the Salesian Life Choices social media sites and on WeCan24, a digital school news platform.

At the end of the campaign, a coffee book of stories, entitled The Cape Town Youth Book, would be released along with original illustrations and photos of the individuals.

“This book will show a totally different side. It centres on the theme- from victim to victor,” said Salesian Life Choices spokesperson Hannelie Booyens.

“We really wanted to celebrate lives, young people and show a completely different side of the youth.”

Read more on:    cape town  |  health

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