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A sore throat that broke the heart of Amos Gumede

Little Amos Gumede loved soccer. He loved soccer more than. anything else.

When he came home from school, he only stayed for a couple of minutes. Then he left in a big hurry – and then you could find him kicking some ball with his friends in the dusty streets of Orlando East.

He always came home after dark. At supper he spoke of only one thing: soccer, soccer and soccer. And when he went to bed, he took no chances – he always took his ball with him.

He slept peacefully and happily. He always had the same wonderful dream. He dreamed about Amos Gumede, the great football star.

One day when he was just nine years old, Amos got a sore throat. He also had a fever. His parents didn’t worry too much. Their other children got sore throats some­times. But they always got better after a few days. Nothing to worry about!

After a few days, Amos did feel better. He was soon back with his friends – playing the game he loved.

But three weeks later, Amos was sick again. The fever was back. And now his knees and elbows were sore. Amos was very sick. But nobody knew.

After a few weeks, Amos was better again. He carried on playing soccer. He soon played in the first team for his school. People came from everywhere to watch the new, young soccer star.

Then two years later, Amos got sick again. He couldn’t chase the ball quickly anymore. He slept badly and he always felt tired. And once again he was hot with a fever.

Now his parents began to worry. They took him to the hospital. Two days later, Amos was having a big operation – a heart operation. The doctors were fighting to save his life.

His parents waited outside and prayed. And then a nurse came out to talk to them. “We are doing our best” she said. “Your son is very sick. He has rheumatic heart disease.”

“This disease starts with a sore throat. A sore throat is always the first warning. We can always tell when a sore throat is dangerous. We give the child a simple test. The test is called a “throat swab”. We put a stick with cottonwool into the child’s throat. It is not painful. We can then see if there is a chance the child will get rheumatic fever.

“If we see the child may get rheumatic fever, we can easily help. We give the child pills for 10 days­ four times a day. Or we can give the child an injection. The child will then get better.

“If the child does not get the pills or injection, the child may get rheumatic fever after a few weeks. The child will have a sore throat and a fever again. And the child may get sore, swollen joints maybe sore wrists and fingers, maybe sore knees and elbows.

“A child with rheumatic fever must see a doctor straight away. Otherwise the child’s heart may get badly damaged. A child with rheumatic fever must take pills for five years. Or we can give the child an injection once a month.

“If the child does not get medicine, the rheumatic fever often comes back – and damages the heart. When rheumatic fever damages the heart, we say the child has rheumatic heart disease. The child will then need an operation – just like Amos.

“Your son is very sick, ” the nurse quietly told Mr and Mrs Gumede. “He will need to take pills for the rest of his life. He wiII never be healthy like other children. I’m sorry to say this – but he may even die when he is still young.”

Mr Gumede looked at his wife. She was crying. He put his arm around her. “Why did this happen?” he asked the nurse in a quiet voice.

“Rheumatic fever is a big killer of black children in our country,” the nurse answered. “Children get this disease because so many of us live so close together. Children catch this disease easily from each other.”

“We can only fight this disease in one way – we must fight for more houses. Together we must fight for a better and healthy life.”

Then the nurse was gone. Mrs Gumede took her husband’s hand. They sat quietly together. They did not talk. But they both were thinking the same thing. “If only we took Amos to the hospital when he had a sore throat. The doctors could so easily have saved him. If only ….”

Now Amos Gumede plays soccer no more. His heart is badly damaged. He still goes out after school everyday. But now he can only watch his friends. And he still takes his old ball to bed every night. He still has the same old wonderfuI dreams – but for Amos Gumede, the dreams will always just be dreams. Nothing more!



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