Nurse brings hope for elephantiasis sufferer

HAVING FUN: Nolubabelo Tom and her daughter Lerato with Penny Sawyer. Picture: MARK WEST
HAVING FUN: Nolubabelo Tom and her daughter Lerato with Penny Sawyer. Picture: MARK WEST

A RETIRED Port Elizabeth nurse has brought some relief – and a smile – to the face of a seven-year-old girl living with elephantiasis.

Grandmother-of-three Penny Sawyer first became aware of Lerato Tom’s condition after seeing a report in The Herald in February.

The report described how, because of the condition characterised by the gross enlargement of an area of the body, particularly the limbs, Lerato spent most of her days indoors watching TV or sleeping.

Sawyer immediately got to work trying to help the Imbasa Public Primary School Grade 2 pupil.

“I got hold of a specialist in Cape Town, Dr Saleigh Adams. He advised we should first start with doctors here in PE.

“It was only in April when I met Dr Chris van Wyk through a friend who suggested Lerato should start occupational therapy every Thursday at the Provincial Hospital.”

Sawyer said Lerato had also been referred to a specialist physiotherapist.

“Audrey Strydom specialises in lymphoedema and was recommended by Aurora Hospital. Our first appointment is on Thursday,” Sawyer said.

“We are very excited as this will change Lerato’s life. The physiotherapy will help reduce swelling through exercises, limb elevation techniques and general hygiene.

“At the moment she is doing exercises with the big red ball and weights. I am glad that one day she will be able to enjoy games just like other kids.”

Sawyer also started the Lerato Tom Project, and roped in others to help.

“Girls her age from Collegiate Junior School for Girls made a recipe book which they are selling so they can raise funds for her hospital visits.

“PWM Financial Management has also donated some money which will go through her education fund. I am also trying to organise her a bed as she has to sleep on the floor with her sister,” Sawyer said.

Lerato’s unemployed mother, Nolubabalo Tom, 28, previously told The Herald how she battled to pay for transport as Lerato could not walk far.

“Sawyer is a blessing in our lives.

“My child is now able to skip and play outside without complaining about the pain,” she said yesterday.

“The doctors told me it was an incurable disease but I have hope that with all the treatment she is getting at least the swelling will go down.” – Yoliswa Sobuwa

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