In August last year, Mnotho Mndebele was a headline story.
Newspapers and news services were abuzz after the five-year-old became the youngest patient in Africa to undergo a mechanical heart transplant.
Almost exactly a year later, his story has continued.
According to his teachers, the now six-year-old picked up an infection in April, and it became critical to find Mnotho a heart of his own.
“The artificial heart was not going to work much longer,” explained his teacher at Klein Spoortjies, Stephanie Campher.
After a few months in hospital and missing the entire second term, little Mnotho returned to his classes towards the end of July.
This preceded a medical check-up in Johannesburg.
Campher said doctors contacted the family thereafter and gleefully informed them they had found a donor heart for Mnotho.
“They went back to Johannesburg and the transplant was done during a nine-hour surgery.”
Campher said the operation was a success, a fact which was confirmed and reiterated by Mnotho’s mother, Mbali.
In her words, her son was happy and recovering well.
“He has been transferred out of the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and everything was a success.”
According to Mbali, Mnotho was singing and talking in the days after the surgery, and was looking forward to coming home at last.
“He is such an energetic and friendly child, who loves to play and interact with his friends. He is always smiling and laughing, and definitely has a special place in my heart,” Campher added.
She said in the short time she had known Mnotho, they had built a special bond and she had visited him in hospital in Johannesburg.
Her colleagues agreed theirs was a special bond.
Principal of Klein Spoortjies, Marti van Zyl believed Campher was specially chosen for Mnotho by God, and said his classmates prayed for him in her class each morning.
“We wish him a speedy recovery and we are looking forward to when he returns to school!”