Mkhululi Ncube, Chronicle Reporter
MPILO Central Hospital in Bulawayo has opened a ward to provide specialist care for children suffering from hydrocephalus following the arrival of a neurosurgeon at the hospital as the institution had gone for over 20 years without such a specialist.
Hydrocephalus is a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain, typically in young children, enlarging the head and sometimes causing brain damage
The new ward at Mpilo was opened with the assistance of the Hydrocephalus Foundation which refurbished one of the wards in the children’s hospital to provide the required specialist care.
The latest move will bring relief to children with the condition from Bulawayo, Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South, as Mpilo Central is a referral hospital for the provinces.
Speaking during the belated Hydrocephalus Commemorations Day and the official opening of the ward at Mpilo yesterday, the hospital consultant neurosurgeon, Dr Garikai Mwale urged parents to bring children with the condition to the hospital early.
Hydrocephalus day is commemorated on October 25 annually to help raise awareness about the condition.
Dr Mwale said some cultural beliefs about the condition have resulted in children dying or coming to hospital very late.
“The condition is caused by lack of folic acid due to poor nutrition and unfortunately if it is not treated children become isolated, have learning and developmental problems as well as being neglected. They must be operated on early in life so that their condition can be improved.
We do have a special history in this part of the country as the last neurosurgeon we had was twenty years ago until recently when I came.
It means that many children were denied the operation that they urgently required. When I came, some were going to Harare, some to Karanda Mission Hospital and some to South Africa but these are basics that we are now able to do,” said Dr Mwale.
He hailed the Hydrocephalus Foundation for assisting in the renovation of the ward as it will help reduce post operations infections.
He said there was still room for more partners to come and provide other necessities still needed in the ward.
“When we operate on our patients, our major worry is post-operative care. We are operating on the head and opening the brain. If you expose the brain to infection, you get a serious infection leading to meningitis and you lose the child. Now we have a cleaner ward which helps us a lot in our endeavours,” he said.
Dr Mwale said consumables used in the theatre are not readily available and most parents whose children suffer from the condition cannot afford to buy them, hence the need for well-wishers to assist.
He said the country also needs to adopt new methods now in use worldwide to help drain water from the heads of the children.
Dr Mwale urged pregnant women to improve their nutrition by taking folic acid supplements to help prevent the problem.
He said the hospital was doing about three to four operations every week but said with more awareness, the numbers could increase.
“The condition is stigmatised a lot in the communities and some parents prefer to hide their children with the condition. Due to lack of awareness, we do most of the operations late because some associate the condition with witchcraft so they will seek traditional help first and when they come to us it will be late. Most births delivered at the hospital are discovered and referred to us,” he said.
“The operations can be done soon after delivery or once the mothers realise that the fontanel is balding and the baby is not acting as they should. The operation is free for all under five children. We may have problems with shunts but at the moment we have those so parents with such children should come.”
Speaking at the same occasion, Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Judith Ncube, who was represented by Provincial Development Coordinator Mr Paul Nyoni, hailed the Hydrocephalus Foundation director Pastor Lynn Ndlovu for the work her organisation was doing in assisting children.–@themkhust