For most parents, discovering their child has passed matric is one their proudest moments.
But for the Peerbhai family of Eldorado Park, Joburg, that moment was a bittersweet one.
Aasiya Peerbhai, who attended Willow Crescent Secondary School, tragically died a few weeks before receiving her matric results. The 19-year-old’s heartbroken mom, Carmen (42), says her beloved daughter studied throughout her illness to make sure she passed matric.
“She went to write every paper through her suffering. She had a tough exam period – very tough,” Carmen tells YOU. “I went through a lot of emotions – happy, sad, everything in one – when I saw she had passed.”
In June last year, the teenager, whose favourite subject was geography, started experiencing pain in her joints and swelling in her body. Her worried mom took her to Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in a bid to discover what was wrong.
“The doctor suspected rheumatoid arthritis and sent her for blood tests but the condition was ruled out.”
Specialists then picked up that Aasiya’s iron levels were low and put her on medication in the hope it would cure her symptoms.
“The swelling went down but she was still in pain,” says Carmen, a single mom who has four other children.
Things took a turn for the worse when Aasiya had a seizure in December.
“We rushed her to hospital and she was admitted for observation. Her bloods were taken again and the results were the same – her iron was low.
“The doctors then told me she couldn’t give her any medication until various scans and tests had been done to see what lay at the root of the problem,” Carmen says.
Aasiya was discharged from hospital a few days before Christmas and told to return in February for the tests and scans. Over the next weeks, her pain and discomfort increased to such an extent she could barely get out of bed.
In an attempt to get her mobile again, her mom and siblings – Natasha (21), Razeena (15), Miekah (13) and Jayden (10) – tried various exercise activities with her. But Aasiya was in agony. “She kept telling us we’d never understand the pain she was in.”
Despite her family’s best efforts, Aasiya’s condition steadily deteriorated and she passed away on 2 February after sending her grandmother, Kathleen Niewenhuizen (68), who lives with the family, a chilling text.
“She messaged my mom in the other room and told her that she’s done – she couldn’t carry on anymore.
“My mom got up and went to lie with her in her room. Not long after that, she heard Aasiya stop breathing,” says Carmen, adding that an autopsy revealed her daughter had died as a result of organ failure. The root cause, however, is unclear.
It was such a shock, Carmen says. “Until this happened, Aasiya had always been healthy.”
Aasiya’s matric results were both heartbreaking and a sense of pride for the family – and Carmen can’t help wondering if her beloved child had a feeling she wouldn’t live to find out if she’d passed.
“A week prior to her passing, her friend Nicole called her and asked her if she was anxious about her results and Aasiya’s response was that she wasn’t worried – her reward would be in heaven,” the devastated mom says.
Aasiya was a good student: she had been provisionally accepted to study film and media at Rhodes University and to study a BA in motion picture medium at Afda. The choice was hers – now her family know what she could have achieved.
Her siblings miss her terribly.
“She was nice to hang out with,” Miekah says. “We were close because we shared the same room and we had a lot of fun – even though she could be quite bossy. She also loved washing the cars and fixing things.”
“I’ll miss us always having arguments,” her older sister Natasha added. “We’d always playfully shout at each other. I’ll miss all her silly moments.”
The house, the family say, will never be the same again.