Boy’s agony after ‘botched’ circumcision

06/08/2014. Mother of a 12 year old victim of a botched male circumcision. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

06/08/2014. Mother of a 12 year old victim of a botched male circumcision. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Published Aug 8, 2014


Pretoria - When she arrived at her grandson’s bedside and found him crying from pain and frustration, his face and body itching, swollen and covered in a rash which had also left his lips and eyelids swollen, she almost broke down.

The Atteridgeville granny said in the four weeks her 12-year-old grandson has been in hospital, he had been nothing but cheerful, cracking jokes and making sure no one felt gloomy and sorry for him.

“He was crying and there was nothing I could do. My heart broke and I struggled to hold my tears back,” the granny said after Wednesday’s visit.

She said the suffering and pain he has gone through since his medical circumcision went wrong four weeks ago was already too much to bear. The granny, who asked not to be named to protect the boy’s identity, spoke about the downward slide of her late son’s child since he was circumcised in a local doctor’s surgery.

“It has been a nightmare which visits to the doctor’s rooms have failed to deal with,” she said.

The anguish in the pensioner’s face, and desperation in her voice were tangible as she spoke of the excruciating pain, made worse when the boy had to urinate.

“The screams of pain were unbearable, so much so that I sent him back to his mother, so she could take him back to the doctor to fix whatever had gone wrong,” she said.

His mother, who lives a few streets away , explained that she had taken him “down the road” for the circumcision procedure, because she wanted to ensure he remained clean and healthy.

For the first week after the procedure, her son stayed with her while she helped keep the wound clean, washing it with warm salty water as instructed by the nurses. After a week, and after check-ups confirmed that he was healing fine, he went back to his grandmother’s house, and there, the trouble started.

“He started complaining that his penis was sore, and then urinating became a nightmare as he would scream and call out in anguish,” said the granny, who has raised the boy from three years old.

Not knowing what to do, she took him to his mother and asked her to take him back to the doctor for urgent treatment. The next morning they went back to the doctor where the wound was dressed.

“The attending doctor told us to keep the bandage on for seven days and then come back to him to remove it,” she said.

They went back to his grandmother’s house, but things only got worse: “He was constantly in pain, and of course urinating took it to greater heights, and we started doubting the treatment given by the doctor was proper,” she said.

When he did not get better she decided that things could not continue as they were, and after midnight the next Monday, his mother rushed him to Kalafong Hospital. When nurses unwrapped the bandage they were shocked, his mother said.

“His penis was covered in pus and didn’t seem to be held together as it should naturally be,” she said.

He was admitted and treatment started, and he was eventually taken into theatre last week. From there he emerged with a catheter inserted into his lower abdomen, and she was told that the head of his penis was partially detached, cracked all over and had to be repaired surgically.

“The only problem is not knowing what the doctors are doing exactly, why isn’t he getting well enough to come home,” she asked.

When she arrived at the hospital to spend the day with him on Wednesday, she was confronted with his swollen face and body: “He looked terrible, but the doctor had come and seen him, and then prescribed a cream to sooth the itching and reduce the swelling.”

Efforts to find out what level of treatment the boy was getting from the hospital were unsuccessful, as were efforts to get hold of the doctor at whose surgery the procedure was performed.

On Thursday the grandmother heard her grandson would be undergoing surgery on Friday.

Said the grandmother: “My biggest worry are the lasting effects of this, which could leave him unable to control his bladder and unable to have children.”

She said he is too young to be condemned to a life of urinal incontinence, but she would continue to hope and pray that the hospital’s medical team would give him back his normal life.

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