Pretoria - The brother of a 12-year-old refugee Somali girl who is being refused life-saving surgery will turn to the North Gauteng High Court for an urgent order forcing the health authorities to give her the heart operation she desperately needs.
The girl cannot be operated on because she has no refugee documents, or R250 000.
The two cannot be identified because the girl is a minor.
Lawyers for Human Rights are assisting the brother to try to save the girl’s life. She fled unrest-plagued Mogadishu and following a journey of several days joined her brother in Pretoria last month.
However, she collapsed before she could apply for asylum and now has no documentation to legally declare her a refugee. Her mother is still in Somalia and her father is dead.
Her brother stated in court papers that earlier this month she was rushed to Kalafong Hospital after she became weak and could no longer walk or talk.
Doctors told the brother that she suffered from a serious heart condition and that she urgently needed an operation to mend a heart valve. The operation could not be done at Kalafong and she was transferred to the Steve Biko Academic Hospital.
According to the brother, this hospital refused to admit the child, as she had no documentation. The other alternative was for the brother to pay a R250 000 deposit, money which he does not have.
He said he had no choice but to turn to the court for help in saving his sister’s life. He cannot wait to enrol the matter through the normal urgent court roll, which would mean the case will only be heard on Tuesday.
“She may no longer be alive for the court to hear the case next week,” he said.
Kalafong Hospital, where the child is presently admitted, told LHR that the child is “very, very sick”.
The brother said he visited her on Monday night and she was so ill he was not sure she would survive the night.
“According to doctors from both Kalafong and Steve Biko hospitals, my sister is gravely sick and needs urgent surgery to save her life,” the brother stated.
He added that the doctors could not say how long she would survive without the surgery.
Doctors at Steve Biko were willing and able to operate urgently, but prevented from doing so because of administrative problems, he said.
Her condition was visibly deteriorating, which “terrifies” him.
“She is in constant pain and lies in bed clutching her stomach and chest.
“She is unable to eat and barely speaks. She is only skin and bone and often vomits.
“The most noticeable symptom she displays is the beating of her heart. It is visible through her clothing as it rises and falls in her chest with alarming quickness.
“You can hear her heart beating and her eyes are glazed. I am convinced she is dying and I appeal to the court to intervene.”
The brother said the fact that she is being denied surgery simply because she is an undocumented child violated her rights in terms of the constitution.
Under normal circumstances the child would have to go through a lengthy children’s court or high court process to first ascertain who her legal guardian was before she could apply for asylum. She would then have to go to a refugee reception office in person to apply for the necessary documents.
However, this is impossible given her situation.
Meanwhile, she remains on oxygen, awaiting the court’s ruling.
The Department of Health could not be reached for comment by late Wednesday afternoon.