Brave Thembinkosi’s new wheelchair is a “Godsend”
Disabled young man dreams of meeting SA cricket team
Thembinkosi Matshimane of Ga-Rankuwa near Pretoria suffers from arthrogryposis, a severe muscle disorder. Thembi, as he is affectionately known, has for quite some time needed a new wheelchair to get around a little easier. However, the necessary funds were not available.
All of this changed on Thembi’s eleventh birthday, when the Netcare Foundation surprised him with the gift of a custom-built wheelchair.
Louisa Hobson, who has taken care of Thembinkosi — whose name means ‘Trust in God’ — since he was abandoned by his mother just 12 days after his birth, says that the young boy is absolutely delighted with his birthday gift.
“Due to his condition, Thembi cannot move his limbs and consequently is not able to care of himself. The wheelchair is already making a major difference to his life, having been especially designed to properly support his back and limbs,” adds Hobson, a pensioner who runs Charlene’s Place of Safety, a childcare facility in Ga-Rankuwa.
“Thembi has had his previous wheelchair since he was three years old and had completely outgrown it. The lack of proper support was obviously not good for his posture and spine, and his new chair will assist to help correct these problems,” says Hobson.
“It has been a major problem trying to secure Thembi a new wheelchair. In the past, we managed to raise funds for corrective operations that he required, but it has proved difficult to find the necessary backing for the wheelchair. Then, just as I was losing hope, the Netcare Foundation stepped forward and offered to assist.”
The Netcare Foundation ordered a wheelchair for Thembi from Shonaquip, which designed and custom built it to provide Thembi with maximum support and comfort. Mande Toubkin, general manager emergency, trauma, transplant and CSI, as well as a director of the Netcare Foundation, says that the chair will need to be upgraded as Thembi grows, and the Foundation has committed to ensuring that this will be done, so that Thembi’s wellbeing and physical development are enabled as much as possible.”
“As chance would have it, the chair was ready just in time for Thembi’s eleventh birthday, a most remarkable coincidence and something of a miracle for him,” adds Hobson. “We are most grateful to the Netcare Foundation for their assistance.”
She says that Thembi was fortunate; a local community leader who knew him and the home had met Adelaide Senabe, Netcare’s CSI operations project manager. “He mentioned Thembi’s case to Adelaide and she asked how Netcare Foundation could help,” relates Hobson.
Thembi was born severely disabled in August 2005 and his overwhelmed mother abandoned him at the hospital. Hobson was asked if she would take on the responsibility of caring for him and had no hesitation in agreeing to foster “a very special baby”.
“He required a great deal of care and no one else in the area was in a position to provide this. Yet it was also quite clear that he was a lovely, bright boy. Today Thembi is a cheerful youngster who doesn’t see himself as disabled and has always been a source of great cheer to all of us at Charlene’s Place of Safety.
“He is also a cricket enthusiast and a Protea supporter; he knows everything about the game and would no doubt be a cricket star if he had the use of his limbs. He dreams of one day meeting the national cricket team and becoming a commentator.”
Hobson started Charlene’s Place of Safety in 2003 and has since taken care of some 100 orphans, disabled children and children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. She currently has eight children living at the facility and looks after a further two in the evenings. She says that the facility survives on her pension, some goodwill from the local community and through her fundraising efforts, but she admits that it is a daily struggle to keep the home going.
Hobson says she started the facility because her daughter, Charlene, an AIDS activist, counsellor and motivational speaker, had recognised the need for a home for AIDS orphans in the area and expressed a desire to start one. Sadly Charlene succumbed to an AIDS complication on 14 April 2003 and Hobson decided to fulfil her daughter’s wishes, naming the facility Charlene’s Place of Safety in her honour.
The causes of arthrogryposis, which is a rare condition, are not clear but genetic and environmental factors that inhibit normal joint movement before birth play a role in the development of the condition. These cause congenital contractures, or a hardening and shortening of muscles and tendons. This, in turn, results in the joints becoming rigid and even deformed prior to birth.
“The Netcare Foundation has been moved and inspired both by Thembi’s story and by Louisa Hobson’s absolute dedication to the children in the community. We are pleased that we could make a positive difference in Thembi’s life and wish him all the very best,” concludes Toubkin.
Those who wish to support Charlene’s Place of Safety or contribute to Thembi’s care can contact Louisa Hobson on 072 456 5773 or email [email protected].