Anthony van den Berg (8) of Kempton Park, on the East Rand, can’t run around like other little boys his age as he’s constantly in pain and doctors don’t know why.
Even in family pictures where he’s smiling, he’s in intense pain, his mom, Uanita (28), tells YOU.
The mother of two says she doesn’t know what to do any more. Her eldest son’s feet are always sore, swollen and hot as coals.
“Even as a baby, Anthony never wanted anyone touching his feet. He’d moan and yank his foot away. When he was two, we realised something wasn’t right – he had very bad balance and kept falling over,” Uanita says.
Over the years she’s taken Anthony to various specialists but no one has been able to identify the problem yet.
“His feet are always swollen and turned slightly inward. His legs are also now starting to turn inward because he’s compensating when he walks. Some days it’s too painful to walk, then he’ll crawl,” she says.
Though his feet are always hurting, there are times when the pain becomes unbearable, Uanita says. “He says it feels like he’s walking on broken glass or nails. It’s as if it clenches, then relaxes, then clenches again, much worse. When that happens, his face turns flaming red and he starts sweating. It’s terrible to see.”
She feels helpless because she can’t even rub cream onto his feet. “When the pain gets bad, he takes anti-inflammatory medication.”
Uanita, an administrative clerk, says Anthony, who’s in Grade 2, is bullied at school.
“They call him ‘Slow Poke’. He struggles to climb stairs and can’t run like the others. He tells us he hates himself and doesn’t want to live.
“It makes us as parents feel entirely powerless,” she says.
Uanita and her husband, Shaun, taught their six-year-old daughter, Leané, from a young age not to tease her brother.
“When Anthony cries from the pain, she’ll sometimes cry too.”
YOU contacted some of the doctors treating Anthony but they declined to comment, citing doctor-patient confidentiality.
But YOU has seen several reports from orthopaedists, paediatric neurologist, biokineticists and other specialists stating it’s not clear what’s causing Anthony’s pain.
Muscle and nerve tests have been recommended. These tests can help determine if there’s any nerve damage. But Uanita says they can’t afford the tests.
“We’re not on medical aid anymore because I lost my job,” she says.
Apart from the physical pain, Uanita and Shaun are worried about Anthony’s emotional state.
“What eight-year-old tells you they don’t want to live? We want to get him to a counsellor but it’s hard because he’s in constant pain and the pain-relieving medication he can take is limited.
“All I want is a normal childhood for him. One without pain.”