It should have been a simple procedure – only minutes in the operating theatre, a little antiseptic and it would all be over.
Then the woman in the waiting room heard her son’s hysterical cries and her blood ran cold.
That day something went terribly wrong in the state hospital in Vryheid and four months later Hester and Spekkies van Vuuren are still reeling from shock and dismay. What was to have been a circumcision ended up with Marco, their five-year old son, losing part of his penis.
Only a stub remains of what previously was a normal penis. And after months of painful procedures and doctors’ examinations the toughest part still lies ahead: telling the little boy he’s permanently scarred and unlikely to be like other boys and young men.
The Cuban doctor who did the circumcision was supposed to make just a small incision, Hester says at her parents’ home in Coronation, Vryheid, KwaZulu-Natal, where the family live. Instead he used nitrogen which burnt the boy’s penis so badly its head was destroyed and five weeks later fell off.
“Some nights I couldn’t sleep,” a heartbroken Hester says. “When I closed my eyes I could hear Marco screaming as he came out of the theatre. And I will never be able to forget that raw wound.”
The 29-year-old mom is bracing herself for the reaction of Marco’s schoolmates when he starts Grade 1 next year. Then she’ll have to explain why he is different.
She speaks openly about her son’s mutilation. But Spekkies (32), a driver at the anthracite mine in Coronation, is less forthcoming.
“It’s a sensitive issue for a man,” is all Spekkies says before he looks away and quickly leaves the room.
The boy, named after Hester’s favourite character in 7de Laan, sits quietly at her side. Occasionally their hands touch. She wants Marco to know she’s doing everything in her power to help him.
Even though it means scrimping and saving she’ll do whatever is needed to raise R50 000 to R60 000 for a reconstructive operation to repair her son’s urethra, which now protrudes between his testicles and penis.
More surgery might be necessary and Marco also needs psychological help but the damage to his sex organ can’t be undone.
Read the full article in the latest issue of YOU