WHILE most five-year-old girls are having play dates, young Morgan-Belle van der Merwe of Framesby is fighting for her life.
On May 16, her parents, Warren and Amelia, received the news that changed their lives – that their precious daughter had a rare bleeding malignant tumour in the centre of her brain.
The diagnosis was made after Morgan-Belle experienced pains in her legs, and she developed a squint. Two days later, the couple flew her to Cape Town to visit a team of neurosurgeons at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital.
The little girl’s case confused doctors as the tumour, which was more than 5cm in diameter, started haemorrhaging and was growing at a rapid rate.
A day after arriving at the hospital, Morgan-Belle had a seizure caused by the build- up of fluid in her brain.
Initially an external drain was fitted and then a permanent shunt was placed into her brain to drain the fluid. But despite all of this, brave Morgan-Belle still shows off her beautiful smile.
“She is an exceptional child,” said Warren. “She does not complain.”
Morgan-Belle went for her tenth session of chemotherapy on Monday at St George’s Hospital. She has been going once a week, but will now go every third week.
Her first session of chemotherapy was on June 18 – Warren and Amelia’s anniversary. They now call it their “chemoversary”.
Besides the chemo sessions, Morgan-Belle has to live with the shunt, which is placed under the skin behind her right ear. She has also had issues of memory loss. It was recently discovered that her left eye is also damaged and the total of her vision is 20% in her left eye and 0% in her right eye.
It has been an “emotional roller coaster” for Warren and Amelia, but they are learning to deal with it.
“We have had obstacles to overcome, but that is life,” said Warren.
“So far as a family we are coping. At the end of the day it is what you have been dealt with and you have to make it work.”
Morgan-Belle, who attends Sunridge Pre-Primary, is back at school to the delight of her friends and teachers. Warren said they wanted to get her back into the swing of things and interacting with her classmates.
The school has been assisting the family with various fundraising drives, and will be hosting a charity golf day in aid of her medical expenses, at PE Golf Club on October 15.
“The school has been phenomenal, they have gone way beyond the call of duty,” said Warren.
The family has a basic hospital plan but there are still bills to pay, and Warren said he did not know how much would be covered.
Despite all that has been thrown at the family, they remain hopeful.
“We have great faith in God,” said Warren.
For more info on the golf day, call Sundridge Pre-Primary on (041)360-1997.
For more info and updates on Morgan-Belle, visit her Facebook page.