The Sunday Mail
MEMORY Charumbira’s story is a tear-jerker. The 24-year-old, who lives in Budiriro, a high-density suburb in the south-west of Harare, can now only sleep helplessly in bed for days on end, unable to move.
Because of the endless time she spends sleeping, she has developed pressure sores, commonly known as bed sores.
Her problems, however, continue to pile up.
Mrs Sara Zuze, an aunt who took her in following her mother’s death, told The Sunday Mail that Charumbira’s eyesight has been gradually failing over the years.
The young woman is now a pale shadow of the vivacious and healthy child that was so full of life before a freak accident that happened at school back in 2005.
On the fateful day, Charumbira was, as kids normally do, excitedly frolicking with her friends at Budiriro One Primary School after the bell rang for break time.
Twenty minutes later, the bell rang again for learners to return to class.
What happened next would turn out to be a heart-wrenching and life-changing experience for Charumbira, who was in Grade Three at the time.
“I was told that the learners were tussling and shoving to be the first to get back into the classroom, and because she had a small body frame, she was overpowered, pushed and then she bumped into a nearby wall.
“When she broke into tears, I was told the teacher ignored her thinking that my child was being a crybaby. It was later when she was summoned by the teacher that she collapsed and we had to be called in,” said Mrs Zuze.
Initially, the caring aunt thought it was just a simple case of horseplay.
Charumbira’s condition deteriorated.
She began complaining about persistent headaches.
It got worse that she began to be treated for meningitis.
In fact, she subsequently got a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, to determine if she had suffered any damage to the brain or spine.
“She continued with treatment for meningitis for six weeks before we were told at a local referral hospital that she had suffered a minor stroke.
“A doctor said she could recover considering that she was young and the stroke was so minor that it could probably remain without being noticed,” Mrs Zuze said.
Up until 2014, Charumbira had been going through physiotherapy.
Unfortunately, she failed her Form Four exams.
She had a second go but failed again as her condition worsened to the extent that she developed fits, which left her unable to focus on her studies.
“Her condition deteriorated until a CT scan revealed that she had grown a brain tumour. The doctor said it is affecting her eyesight and causing headaches. We later took her for an X-ray when the situation got worse and it revealed that the tumour was growing so much it needs to be cut,” she said.
Far from the child who had a promising future, Charumbira’s fate seems to lie in the hands of well-wishers.
She waits to be shifted from whatever position her aunt leaves her in.
Her conversations have degenerated into one-word responses, while bed sores add to the pain of maintaining a single posture in bed for long.
The burden has since shifted to Charumbira’s aunt, who abandoned her menial jobs to take care of her niece full time.
Asked about her hopes and dreams for life, Charumbira gathered the much-needed effort to say: “I would like to be like any other normal 24-year-old woman. If I manage to get back to school, I would like to take care of my aunt who has sacrificed all for me.”
Dr Luxwell Jokonya, a specialist neurosurgeon who has been treating Charumbira, said her condition is life-threatening and requires urgent treatment.
He, however, said it was difficult to link the tumour to the freak school accident.
“I think she has had the tumour for a long time, probably back in her childhood. Her situation is extremely urgent. Memory is the kind of patient that we would not allow to go home as she needs to be operated and treated on immediately,” Dr Jokonya said.
He said a brain tumour is a mass or growth of abnormal cells in the brain.
While the cause of brain tumours is unknown in most cases, people of all ages are at risk of developing them.
“These tumours can either start in the brain or spread to the brain from a cancer elsewhere in the body. However, some of the known risk factors for developing brain tumours are exposure to radiation and some genetic syndromes like neurofibromatosis that can be inherited,” he said.
Research reveals that there are over 100 different types of brain tumours, some are deadly and others can be cured by surgery if treated early.
“Symptoms depend on the type of tumour and where it is located in the brain. In some cases, there may be no symptoms until the tumour is large, then cause sudden decline in health,” said Dr Jokonya.
It is believed that most people in Zimbabwe seek treatment late, which leads to poor outcomes.
“The neurosurgical base in Zimbabwe is rapidly expanding, with some of the neurosurgeons being super-specialists in paediatric neurosurgery, oncology, skull base and vascular, minimally invasive spine surgery and keyhole brain surgery.
“It is the resources that are a challenge at times,” he added.
In the case of Charumbira, Dr Jokonya has since offered to operate on her for free.
However, hospital and other specialists fees of at least US$5 000 still need to be catered for before the operation is carried out.
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