LAST year, while her peers at Westering Primary School were excited about their future as they started Grade 7, 13-year-old Heather Botha was diagnosed with an incurable chronic disease, known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), and was undergoing treatment for this medical anomaly.
The disease is wholly debilitating for Heather. She has had to leave school completely, as her symptoms worsened to include a hypersensitivity to light and sound stimulus; a symptom which proved ultimately too excruciating for her to bear.
An avid gymnast from a young age, Heather is now confined to her bed when she is not trying to get around on crutches, which often, too, proves too painful to endure.
CRPS is a chronic pain condition believed to arise from damage to, or the malfunctioning of the peripheral and central nervous systems.
Botha’s mother and primary caregiver, Hayleigh Botha, said that the disease has taken an immense toll on Heather, who spent seven months wheelchair-bound, so much so that despite attempts to return to school, CRPS has always proven the deciding factor.
Since her diagnosis, Heather has been taken to various hospitals throughout South Africa and late last year, spent time at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, where significant inroads were made to improve her mobility.
“We took her to Red Cross Children’s Hospital in December and they got her walking again, but she was still in intense pain.
“The victory of walking was short-lived and in March this year she had a full relapse,” Botha’s mother said.
Despite the limitation and unavailability of treatment for a disease on the scale of CRPS within the country, Hayleigh is resolute that their family will find lasting treatment for Heather’s debilitating condition.
“There is a doctor in the United States, Dr Katinka van der Merwe, originally from South Africa, who has a new approach to treating CRPS, which has helped hundreds of people worldwide.
She has accepted Heather to be treated at her clinic, but the treatment lasts 12 weeks and the costs are enormous.
“I have promised my amazing daughter that I will take her to the ends of the earth to get her well and I intend to keep that promise,” said a hopeful Hayleigh.
In aid of covering costs associated with Heather’s treatment abroad, the family will be hosting a fancy dress high tea on Sunday, August 25 at 14:00 at the Kabega Primary School Hall, where prizes to be won include a weekend away at The Kelway Hotel in Humewood.
Guest speakers and appearances at the high tea include Zwelethu Mlonzi from the TV show, Generations, well-known animal activist, Patsy Wagner, from the Animal Anti Cruelty League, as well as special performances by the On Beat Musical School and The Voice 2019 finalist, Eon Le Roux.
The follow-up fundraiser for Heather will be an Afrikaans rap concert, to be held at the Pieter Rademeyer Hall on September 23, which will see performances by local artists such as Junant Petersen, with tickets costing R50.
In spite of Heather’s illness and the pain it encompasses, Botha’s mother added that she continues to smile with an unwavering fervour for a better life free of the agony that is CRPS.
Tickets for either of the events can be purchased from Hayleigh Botha at 067 037 0422.
Those seeking to donate to her cause for treatment abroad can do so at www.backabuddy.co.za