It took a tiny human being with hepatitis, born eight weeks early and bravely fighting addiction due to his mother’s tik use, for Bianca Ferreira to come to her senses. An habitual tik-user, Ferreira, 26, already had three daughters when her son, Luke, was born.
Painfully thin, she received no medical care during her pregnancy until she unexpectedly went into labour two months early.
“I was only seven months pregnant. When he was born he did not cry. I only saw him for a second,” Ferreira said.
“He was a breech baby. While I was giving birth the thought dawned on me that my baby was dead. I thought he didn’t make it.
“It was only the next day that they said I must come. There he was, this tiny human, fighting to live.
“He had hepatitis from the drugs I was using. I didn’t go to the clinic. His lungs were not working. His skin looked like someone had burnt him.”
For two months, as little Luke was fighting for his life, Ferreira got hers together.
“It was a huge wake-up call for me. I was so selfish,” she said.
As doctors at Dora Nginza Hospital patiently helped Luke fight the hepatitis and then adjusted his vitamins to sort out his skin problem, Ferreira went to hospital social worker Pamela Rubushe to ask for help.
Rubushe said: “So few of the drug-addicted moms come to ask for help. They think I am going to take their baby away.
“But I didn’t. The fact that she [Ferreira] asked for help was a major factor in her favour.”
Ferreira was sent to the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (Sanca) to detox.
“I am now done with all the drugs I did. I feel different this time.
“I have a support group. I have started a new chapter,” Ferreira said.
She had given social workers at Sanca her parents’ cellphone numbers too, to help keep her on the programme.
Rubushe said: “The best part of her recovery for me was that while she was still at the neonatal ward she started helping other moms with drug problems to seek help.”
Another mother, who asked not to be named, said she did not want to ask for help as she was afraid her child might be taken away.
“I stopped smoking tik when I was three months pregnant but started again at 35 weeks,” she said.
“I heard there was help available but I was too scared to ask.”
She said she had met Ferreira in the ward. “She convinced me to go to the social worker and ask for help.”
Rubushe said the problem of drug addiction in mothers was rife at Dora Nginza Hospital.
A Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Prevalence Study published last year by the Foundation for Alcohol Related Research and under taken in Bethelsdorp and Helenvale showed that 13 out of 100 children in Grade 1 showed symptoms of foetal alcohol syndrome.
Last week, Luke was well enough to be discharged and his mom could take him to their Salt Lake home.