Limile has stolen the hearts of donors and supporters of the Children’s Hospital Trust and is recognised by many. If you’ve been to or heard of the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, you may have heard of him and if you are lucky, met him and experienced his charming personality.
At five-years-old, he has spent most of his life at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. Born with kidney dysplasia, he has had to undergo numerous operations and has been on dialysis since he was just one-year-old, while he and his family have anxiously waited for a kidney transplant. Visiting the Hospital every three days for his treatment, he is one of the patients to spend the longest amount of time on dialysis in the 60-year history of the Hospital.
With a severe shortage of organ donations in South Africa, children like Limile are waiting very long periods to receive a life-saving organ. The Red Cross Children’s Hospital has not performed any transplants since September 2016, yet it usually undertakes 10 renal transplants a year. Which is why Limile’s mom, Portia, was overwhelmed when she received a call in May 2017 to say that a kidney had become available for her son.
Professor Mignon McCulloch, Paediatric Nephrologist and Senior Consultant for the paediatric Intensive Care Unit (ICU) has treated Limile throughout his medical journey. She explains that he has been admitted to and spent time in the ICU at least three times.
For the family, the Hospital has become like a second home. Portia says that the doctors and nurses have taken incredible care of Limile his whole life. She says, “Everyone has been so supportive and helpful and I know that Limile has been in good hands when we couldn’t be there. He is also very popular and everyone has just showered him with love.”
It is Limile’s strong spirit that has pulled him through, says Professor McCulloch. Getting him well enough to receive a new kidney has been a team effort by numerous doctors, nurses, dialysis technologists and therapists in the Hospital.
Portia says, “I had mixed feelings about the transplant because I didn’t want to be disappointed, but when he went into theatre I knew that this was it. This was Limile’s perfect kidney, just for him.”
The kidney transplant surgery was a success and Limile’s tiny body took to his new kidney immediately. He only spent two days in the first of the newly upgraded ICU patient units and was then transferred to the E2 renal ward for recovery, ensuring that no infections occur.
For haemodialysis technician, Gina Sinclair, Limile is more than a patient that she treats. A similar age to her own son, Limile has been spent three hours with her every three weeks for the past three to four years, while being treated for dialysis.
She says, “I have such a soft spot for him. He’s the kind of child that just creeps into your heart.”
Which is why the moment that Limile very proudly told Gina that he was not going to see her in the dialysis room again was such a special one. She explains that she has watched him grow and heal right before her eyes. When she first met him, he was so sick that he needed a wheel chair to move around and was on a ventilator to breathe, but now he runs around like a healthy and happy five-year-old boy.
For the other parents and patients in the renal ward, he is a force to be reckoned with. Trotting up and down the halls in his tiny and comfortable clogs and Spiderman dressing gown, he is known as the child with the mischievous glint in his eye. Chantel, a mom who is waiting to donate her own kidney to her one-year-old daughter, teases Limile from their Hospital room.
“The doctors aren’t going to let you out of the Hospital unless you behave,” she laughs. Limile gives her a big grin in response.
Nurses have to remind Limile to put on his mask when he leaves his isolation cubicle and slow down as he energetically lets his legs carry him where they want to go.
Professor McCulloch says, “He is such a delightful cheeky little character and has the most committed family.”
It’s because of ongoing support and commitment to his care – as well as the fact that quite frankly Limile has never allowed for any other possibility – that he will hopefully not need dialysis or another night in ICU again.