She’s a real ‘super trooper’
’Abba’ cast celebrates birthday of young woman with fighting spirit in hospital
On a normal day, the only noise you hear in Livingstone Hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) is the hum of machines keeping patients alive, but Monday was no ordinary day – it was a celebration of resilience and the will to live.
Honouring the fighting spirit of a young woman struck down by an unusual disease that left her immobile for months, nurses, doctors and the cast of Centrestage’s Abba: Here We Go Again show gathered at the ICU to celebrate Ntombenkosi Nkasayi’s miracle recovery – and her birthday.
She turned 20 on Saturday.
The sounds of Super Trooper, Dancing Queen and Happy Birthday filled the passages as Nkasayi was treated to her own private show.
Nkasayi was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome in May and has spent the past four months fighting for her life.
ICU head Dr Lizette van der Merwe said the cause of Guillain-Barre syndrome was not known but in Nkasayi’s case it was worse as it was coupled with another auto-immune disease, Lupus, and it also affected her breathing.
It was so bad that she could barely move her eyelids.
Guillain-Barre is a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks nerves.
This causes weakness and in extreme cases patients can lose almost all ability to move.
Nkasayi, who is studying human settlements development at Nelson Mandela University, said it started after she had the flu for two weeks.
“It just wouldn’t go away,” she said.
She got some medicine from the campus clinic but then on April 28 went to see a doctor in Veeplaas.
“My vision started getting blurry and I struggled to walk.”
On the Sunday, she was with her family in Jansenville.
“My mom took me to the clinic and they sent me to hospital. I stayed there for a week. They thought I had pneumonia,” she said.
“My back was aching and it felt like my whole body was on fire.”
She was transferred to Midlands Hospital in Graaff-Reinet and as her condition worsened she was sent to Livingstone Hospital, where she was placed on a ventilator to breathe.
“It has been a long journey,” she said.
“I was very frustrated. When I got sick I was still busy with an assignment for class. I couldn’t understand why this has happened to me.
“I want to thank the staff at Livingstone Hospital for empowering me to believe in myself.
“I was fighting for my life, for my mom Noxolo Seyse, for my family and also for my future.”
Nkasayi said when she was 13 she had lived with her aunt in Khayelitsha in Cape Town and it was then that her career path had been shaped.
“We lived in a shack and in the winter time the shack would flood.
“Everything was wet, even my school clothes.
“It was then that I realised having shelter makes life better. It makes you better in school. People need houses.”
She said this had led to her decision to study towards a human settlements degree.
Occupational therapist Amy Menegaldo said by the time she started treating Nkasayi she could only flick her wrists slightly.
“She was in a bad space. She, however, fought back and improved in leaps and bounds – and now she can brush her hair and her teeth,” Menegaldo said.
“We are now focusing on getting her walking. She has a long road ahead of her. It will take some time.
“This girl is really an inspiration. She has a tremendous fighting spirit.”
Andre Strydom, a clinical technologist who works at Livingstone Hospital’s ICU, organised the cast of the Abba revival show to give Nkasayi a private performance.
He said as it was Nkasayi’s 20th birthday on Saturday, they wanted to do something special for her.
“She is an incredible person,” Strydom said.
Van der Merwe said Nkasayi was much loved in the unit.
“Lately, the nurses are even making sure her hair looks nice every day and they were trying out different hairstyles and doing her nails,” she said.
ICU staff decorated her cubicle with balloons and gifts and she even received a tiara – celebrating her as “the queen of the fightback”.
The team of nurses taking care of Nkasayi sang and danced and wiped some tears away with the Abba performers during their visit on Monday morning...