At first Mienke Mulder’s mom thought her two-year-old daughter's fever and runny nose was because of teething. But then she was hospitalised again.
As a baby Mienke choked on her milk while at daycare, leaving her with permanent brain damage.
Her parents have become accustomed to hospitals. Mienke’s mom, Verna, says when Mienke got sick early in March, she thought it was because of teething.
"That Saturday I could see Mienke wasn’t feeling well. She was feverish and had a runny nose and cough. We decided to just monitor her because she’s teething."
The following Monday, when she dropped Mienke at her carer, Verna could see her daughter’s condition had worsened. And indeed, the carer called her later to say Mienke wasn’t doing well.
When Verna fetched Mienke, the carer told her the coughing had worsened and that the child was having coughing fits.
"Mienke had contracted the parainfluenza 3 virus, a respiratory virus that affects her airways. Symptoms include fever, a runny nose and coughing – which is what she had. The doctor noticed Mienke vomits often though she had an operation a year ago to keep the food in," Verna explains.
"Because of the virus they couldn’t operate because her airways will close up under anaesthesia."
Mienke spent four days in hospital but it could take up to six weeks before she’s well enough to investigate the cause of her vomiting while she’s under anaesthesia.
Shortly before Mienke’s second birthday in January, Verna had said they were planning a trip to India, where Mienke would receive stem-cell treatment in an effort to improve her condition. But the little girl still has regular fits and because of the fluid on her brain – which causes the fits – they haven’t been able to fly with her.
"We fear Mienke will have a fit on the plane. Sometimes she doesn’t recover on her own and needs to be injected."
She’s been put on new medication, which seems to be having an effect. "We’re hoping to be able to go later in April."
In the meantime, it’s a daily struggle to improve Mienke’s quality of life.
"We’re so used to hospitals. As hard as it is, one gets used to it. You need to have the right mindset. We’re doing it to make her better."
Verna posts frequent updates to the Facebook page Please Pray for Mienke, which has more than 56 000 followers.
"There’s no improvement when it comes to the big things, such as swallowing, sitting and eating. But on Sunday I played her music and she started laughing! Mienke loves music."
After the choking incident in August 2017 at her daycare in Mbombela, Mpumalanga, Mienke was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The family have since moved to Benoni on Gauteng’s East Rand.
Mienke is unable to swallow, eat, sit up right or use her hands. She has to be fed with a tube.
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