What began as a journey of faith has taken a giant leap, spurred on by the unwavering dedication of two parents and aided by the kindness of South Africans.
In May last year, City Press reported on the story of seven-month-old Mnqobi, who was born with a rare congenital lower limb deficiency known as tibial hemimelia, which manifests as a shortened leg with knee and ankle deformities that force his legs to turn inwards.
His parents have waged a fervent battle to ensure that he has a chance to walk one day.
The snag was that it would cost R3 million to get the life-changing surgery at the Paley Orthopedic and Spine Institute at St Mary’s Medical Centre in Florida, US.
Paley is the foremost institute for technologically advanced treatment for such cases.
Even in the face of a condition so rare that it affects only one in 1 million live births, his mother Nthabiseng (32) and father Mzwakhe (35) were resolute and stopped at nothing to give their son a fair shot at a regular life.
Last week, the young family finally hopped on to a plane to the US, ready to begin the next phase of their journey towards helping Mnqobi walk.
“We are taking a big leap of faith,” Nthabiseng told City Press this week from Florida.
“We had a lot of difficulties because of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, which made our journey in helping Mnqobi walk more complex, but we continue to keep the faith.
“We have been very fortunate to have a payment schedule planned with the hospital so that we can get the process of reconstructive surgery started.”
World-renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr Dror Paley advised that the toddler have his surgery at 18 months old, the age when babies’ cartilaginous kneecaps begin to harden into the bony kneecaps that we eventually have as adults.
“The time to have the surgery is now … the boys [Mnqobi and his twin brother, Philasande] have grown now, and his brother is already running around … This is crunch time. The coronavirus pandemic made this journey a lot more complex and challenging, from getting visas to everything ready for the move. We had to beg, plead and borrow,” Nthabiseng continued.
The family are now settling into their subsidised housing in West Palm Beach in Florida. Their stay is being partially covered (40%) by Paley’s UnLIMBited Foundation, a subsidiary that helps ease the financial burden of families whose children are being treated by the institute.
When City Press first ran the article about Mnqobi, the outpouring of support from South Africans from all walks of life was overwhelming.
People from all over the country dug into their pockets and donated anything from R10 to R10 000 to help the family achieve their dream. Some even climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness of the family’s plight.
“We want to thank everyone once again and update everyone of our journey; a journey that people related to and supported us through. South Africans really carried us. For now we just rejoice that Q is in!”
Mzwakhe and Philasande will stay in the US for the first two months, then head back to South Africa, as life there will be too expensive for the whole family.
But the family is not out of the woods financially, and they need support for the year-long journey ahead.
For more information and details about Mnqobi’s journey, visit helpqwalk.org.