Despite living with severe health issues for most of her life, Charnelle Herbert, 17, is not letting her condition hold her back.
This brave young lady was initially diagnosed with encephalitis and bacterial meningitis when she was they were just two weeks old.
Herbert’s mother, Debby Gower, recalls that her baby girl was too young to have a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt inserted. This shunt relieves pressure on the brain caused by the build-up of fluid.
“The operation hadn’t been performed on a baby that young at the time. They said even if they managed to insert the shunt, her scans showed that she would be blind, paralysed on her left side and mentally handicapped,” said Gower.
Charnelle made a surprising recovery and grew up to be a healthy child. However, in 2010 she started having seizures and was found in a comatose state.
Gower recalls the journey as being a nightmare during which where she had to watch her child endure 11 brain surgeries over a few months.
“She was skinny, grey in colour, wearing nappies, unable to feed herself, each surgery taking more from her than the last. She suffered severe headaches, vomiting and memory loss,” she said.
Herbert regained her strength and carried on normally led a normal life until September last year.
“I started having headaches but I didn’t tell anyone. I remember I was on a camp in Hogsback at the time,” Herbert said.
She said she went to two doctors who checked her shunts and told her “everything was fine”.
“It turns out everything wasn’t fine, the shunt had stopped working and I had to go in for surgery for my VP shunt to be replaced.” she said.
Once again, Charnelle had new problems. Her stomach was rejecting the shunt which caused painful air pockets to form.
“I was back in theatre a few times. The shunts were revised and moved around in the hope that it would do the trick, but it didn’t. I went to my matric dance in pain but I couldn’t miss it,” she said.
What keeps this young lady going is the her faith in God, a Facebook support group which she really appreciates, and the incredible support from her school.
“I would like to raise awareness about shunts as and spread information because there are so many people with shunts,” Herbert said.
Frere Hospital CEO Dr Rolene Wagner said she now had a ventricular-atrial (VA) shunt inserted.
“The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) has been diverted from the brain via Charnelle’s external jugular vein directly into the right side of her heart. Not only can this be a difficult procedure to undertake, but it also can carry its own set of potential complications,” Wagner said.
Charnelle is responding positively to the treatment received at the hospital and was discharged on Tuesday.
The family is in need of urgent financial assistance as the. Banking details for contributions can be made to Charnelle D Herbert, Capitec, Acc no 1282061486,Branch code 470010.