Thabelo Mkhize, aged 9, was born with Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) but clinicians struggled to diagnose it. As a child she battled to walk or play, spending most of her time sleeping and in pain. Even rolling over was sore for the quiet, delicate girl.
“When she was around six-years-old her joints were swollen and she would cry if she had to move too much. Getting her out of her pajamas hurt her and she didn’t want to eat and couldn’t play. Her knees were pushing inwards and she would wake up at 2 o’clock in the morning crying and in pain,” dedicated mom Constance says.
Worried, Constance took her to clinics in the area but was told that Thabelo suffered from Valgum, which means that she is knock-kneed. She was given Paracetamol and ‘flu medication and carried on going to school on days that she could get transport. Walking was too painful. The family feared that the youngest of the children was missing too much school.
Thabelo’s back and neck continued to stiffen, hurting her. Concerned that her daughter had a severe illness, Constance brought her to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in 2012. Her joints were excruciatingly swollen and doctors fear that if she hadn’t seen them then, she may have ended up in a wheelchair.
Thabelo was diagnosed with JIA upon arrival at the Hospital and within a month of treatment, was a different child. Constance says, “She had energy again, she was playing and sleeping.” Dr Chris Scott explains that when Thabelo was admitted, she had very limited range of motion and the swelling of her joints was a shock to see. After treatment began, she was fully mobile again.
Today Thabelo plays netball and takes part in athletics and running. She is also very good at Maths. She smiles shyly as she proves just how far she comes, stretching her arms right up above her head. It is a movement she cannot take for granted.