CHOC supports families in time of need

Khaba Khaba in bed flanked by his dad, Dr Jimmy Khaba and mom, Sybel Khaba after his bone marrow transplant at Rondebosch Medical Centre.

Khaba Khaba, 11, has been given a fighting chance after undergoing a successful bone-marrow transplant at the Rondebosch Medical Centre at the beginning of the month.

September is World Child Cancer Awareness Month, and CHOC Childhood Cancer Foundation is doing their bit to support families coming from out of town for cancer treatment.

Khaba, from Bloemfontein, was diagnosed with fanconia anemia, a hereditary blood disease that can lead to leukaemia without a bone marrow transplant.

Khaba, along with his brother, Junior, 13, his parents, Dr Jimmy and Sybel Khaba, took a long drive down to Cape Town at the end of April to seek a bone marrow transplant for Khaba.

They have been staying at the CHOC cancer home in Sybrand Park since they arrived.

Dr Khaba, a dentist in Bloemfontein, said it had been an emotional time for their family as his eldest son, Lehlohonolo, had died at the age of 13 in 2017 from the same disease. He had been unable to find a suitable bone marrow donor in time.

“My wife and I even asked the doctors if we could donate our bone marrow, though the doctors said because of his blood disorder that was passed by our genes, it could never work,” said Dr Khaba. “It was devastating losing our son.”

With his youngest son going through the same blood disease and the same medication and treatment it was like “reliving a nightmare”, he said.

Then in March, Professor Nicolas Novitzky, a clinical haematologist from Rondebosch Medical Centre, threw the family a lifeline when he told them a blood test had revealed that Dr Khaba could donate bone marrow to his son.

“The professor told me that I am 80% compatible and I can donate my bone marrow, and I was shocked because I was previously told that I could not donate, now I can,” Dr Khaba said.

But there were complications when tests found Khaba had liver inflammation and his haemoglobin was dropping. He had to undergo a blood transfusion and change his diet.

The time spent in Cape Town also took its toll on the family. Dr Khaba was unable to work for five months and his children could not attend school and were away from their relatives.

Then further tests showed Khaba’s liver was healthy enough to do the bone marrow transplant, which lasted three hours.

“It was emotional for me to feel that my son feels like he got reborn again,” Dr Khaba said.

Ms Khaba added: “We are given hope now that he has gone through a successful transplant.”

She said her son was expected to be discharged from the hospital at the end of September.

Ms Khaba thanked CHOC for their support, saying: “They are doing amazing work. We as a family will forever be grateful for the work that they do and, I would like to be part of their organisation going forward.”

CHOC home regional manager, Lynette Muthuray, said their goal was to support families so that they need only focus on their children’s treatment.

“We receive a lot of feedback from parents who have even lost children through cancer, who thanked us for being there for them, though it does make us feel proud whenever child patients can survive cancer.”

Click here or call 083 418 1800 to find out more about CHOC and how you can support them.