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No Holding Back – The Siya Khumalo story

In May 2015, nine-year old Siya Khumalo was attacked and severely mauled by two Pitbull terriers while on her way home from school.

Not only did she suffer severe kidney damage, in order to save her life, this traumatic incident also led to the amputation of Siya’s right leg.

Siya’s father, Vusi, was faced with even further challenges as a result of the terrible incident, in that it was difficult to foresee how funding could be raised in order to pay for Siya’s prosthetic needs going forward as well as counselling in order to help her deal with the trauma of the attack and that of losing a limb.

Yet, there was no holding back.

When Siya’s friend, Shazia Dudhia, wrote to 94.7’s Christmas Wish List about what happened to Siya, the Dis-Chem Foundation didn’t hold back either and responded without hesitation.

A dedicated team of experts sets to work to help turn a wish into a reality

  • A dedicated team of experts was assembled without delay and promptly set to work to help turn Shazia’s wish for Siya to be fitted with a prosthetic leg into a reality.
  • The components for Siya’s prosthetic leg were funded by the Dis-Chem Foundation.
  • Roger Wolfson and Associates stepped on board immediately in their role as dedicated prosthetists and straightaway set to work on the first walking prosthesis.

Towards comfort, mobility and confidence

Says Roger:

‘We first begin with the process of measuring of the residual limb which is followed by any number of test fittings that may be required to ensure patient comfort, mobility and confidence.’

In Siya’s case, as a trans femoral (above knee) amputee where the residual limb is short and very scarred, this inevitably means that even as normal healing occurs, and during the rehabilitative process, the residual limb keeps changing as she grows.

Irrespective of the time it takes or the number of fittings required to deliver the best possible results, we are prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that the outcome of the prosthesis is to the complete satisfaction of the patient,’ Roger confirms.

A team from Carte Blanche

Siya’s prosthetic leg was fitted recently. A team from Carte Blanche was also on the scene to cover this inspiring story, having witnessed the results first-hand of turning a wish into a reality when they visited Siya at the practice of Roger Wolfson and Associates.

But, there is still no holding back for the Dis-Chem Foundation in their continuous effort to raise funds in that more funding will be needed to cater for Siya’s prosthetic needs going forward, since, her leg will need to be adapted as she grows and the counselling that she receives is an ongoing process. Costs could amount to anything from R500 000 to R700 000 over the next three years.

No holding back on the ambition to turn a completely different wish into a reality

Yet, going forward, there will be no holding back for Siya either, in any way whatsoever. Her ambition is to one day become a doctor so that she can turn a completely different wish into a reality, that is, to help others in the same way that she has been helped.

Concludes Roger: ‘Siya has made tremendous progress so far and she is walking well. I firmly believe that she has the strength to achieve that which she truly desires and will live a normal life.’

To help raise funding for Siya, call Roger Wolfson and Associates on (011) 640 7198 or approach the Dis-Chem Foundation direct.

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Articles/Case Studies

Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBS)

Don’t ignore this vital sign: Get up to speed with Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs) and the workings of the Law

By law, Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs) require medical aids to bear the costs of basic prosthetics

Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs): A feature of the Medical Schemes Act

Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs) are a feature of the Medical Schemes Act which means that in terms of South African law, medical aid schemes are required to bear the costs of basic prosthetics.

  • What this entails is that irrespective of the type of benefit option selected, Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs) is a set of defined benefits that ensure that certain minimum health services are accessible to all medical scheme members where this applies to any emergency condition as defined within a certain limited set of such conditions.
  • The main purpose of this feature is to provide a more affordable form of healthcare and ensure continuous care to improve health and wellbeing.
  • To determine whether a condition falls within a PMB, a doctor should use a diagnosis-based approach which means that only the symptoms and not any other factors, such as cause of injury or how a condition was contracted, should be examined.

Amputations as a result of certain medical conditions fall within the scope of Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs).

How does an amputation occur?

An amputation entails the surgical removal of all or part of a limb or extremity that could involve the leg, foot, toe, arm, hand or finger.

Studies suggest that there are 1.5 amputees per 1000 persons. Therefore, the current number of amputees in South Africa amounts to approximately 60 000.

What are the reasons for amputation?

An amputation may be required due to many reasons.

Vascular Conditions

  • Poor circulation due to damage or narrowing of the arteries, also known as peripheral arterial disease, is the most common cause since, without adequate blood flow, cells are unable to obtain the required amount of oxygen or nutrients. As a result, affected tissue begins to die which results in infection.
  • Poor circulation due to diabetes causes a limb to become gangrene due to loss of blood supply.

Other reasons for amputation may include:

  • Severe injury or trauma, for example, as a result of serious burns or a vehicle accident.
  • The presence of a cancerous tumour either in the bone or the muscle of the limb.
  • As a result of serious infection that does not respond to antibiotics or other treatments.
  • Frostbite
  • Neuroma (thickening of nerve tissue).

At Roger Wolfson and Associates doing whatever it takes means we never ignore the vital signs

At Roger Wolfson and Associates, we are passionate about doing whatever it takes in going the extra mile to ensure that our clients receive the funding needed for a basic prosthesis made available within the Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs).

This means that we never ignore the vital signs. Our team of dedicated specialists at Roger Wolfson and Associates is available to answer your questions and help you take full advantage of the entitlements that fall within the Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs). Don’t ignore this vital sign:

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Articles/Case Studies

‘Dispelling’ the doubts about doctors with dyslexia

Healers – no matter which way you look at it

There have been numerous famous physicians throughout history and still many more today who are dyslexic, but, one would never know.   This is because they don’t identify themselves as such in the workplace nor did they formally do so in the past.

Medicine is a popular choice of occupation for adult dyslexics who are often gifted

A typical profile of a dyslexic physician involves early troubles in elementary school.  Yet, a number of reasons exist as to why medicine is a popular choice of occupation for adult dyslexics who are often gifted.

Firstly, medicine is a complex domain to master that nevertheless also requires an ability to grasp the big picture, make decisions and execute a plan.

Medicine is often of interest to many dyslexic students

Medicine is based in scientific disciplines which is often of interest to many dyslexic students.  In addition, many dyslexic mind strengths are in sync with the field of medicine, such as spatial reasoning, required by surgeons, cardiologists and radiologists; interdisciplinary thinking – needed for occupations involving dermatology, immunology, epidemiology and ICU; narrative reasoning (think clinical histories, psychology and psychiatry); and dynamic reasoning associated with preventative health, rehabilitation and sports medicine.

While significant challenges exist, dyslexic individuals who pursue a career in medicine are greatly aided by technology.

Case study – Blake Charlton: a dyslexic doctor among many

This case study involves the story of Blake Charlton.  Failing kindergarten was the first of many of his school struggles and difficulties.  He was relegated to remedial classes as a result of being diagnosed with dyslexia.  In spite of this, he barely passed.  Even at the age of 35, reading still posed a challenge and is a self-described ‘crummy’ speller, who manages written communication by relying on the use of abbreviations.  Yet, those who recall his academic difficulties are often surprised at the abbreviation that now follows his name:  M.D.

“For much of high school and college, I didn’t think medical school was a possibility,” says Charlton, who’s now a medical resident at the University of California, San Francisco and an editorial fellow for the American Medical Association journal JAMA Internal Medicine. “I spent a lifetime having to ride the short bus, identifying as someone who needs help.”

Charlton earned entry into Stanford School of Medicine after receiving time accommodations to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).  He maintains that his first-hand awareness of personal deficiencies has help him to evolve into a compassionate physician.

Roger Wolfson – a South African dyslexic orthotics and prosthetics specialist among many

Himself diagnosed with dyslexia, Roger Wolfson has relentlessly pursued a brilliant career in orthotics and prosthetics and is a specialist among many who has made great strides in his chosen field.  Roger states that dyslexics are often known to be lateral thinkers.  A lateral thinker in his own right,  Roger has significantly contributed to his field with patented orthotic innovations such as ‘Backmate’ also known as ‘a friend to lean on’ which is a back/spinal brace designed and developed to aid back pain sufferers who find difficulty sitting in certain positions and the ‘JR OA Off-loader knee brace’ which has been designed to remove knee pain without the need for surgical intervention.

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Articles/Case Studies

The evolution of prosthetics – Part 1: Artificial toes from Ancient Egypt to Darth Vader and beyond

This fascinating image shows an artificial toe which was found on the foot of an Egyptian mummy that is estimated to date back somewhere between 950 B.C. and 710 B.C and is believed to be the earliest known example of a prosthetic limb.  Housed at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, the wood and leather artificial toe comprises three parts and would have strapped on to the foot of the owner.

Even though the Star Wars character Darth Vader is fictional, he represents the leaps and bounds that technology continues to take in the ever evolving quest to produce the best that prosthetic technology has to offer.  “It was said that due to the extent of his injuries, Darth Vader was 80% machine (prosthetics) and a mere 20% human.  Both of his legs were severed at the knees, his right arm at the elbow and his left arm just below the shoulder.  (Wikipedia).

Yet, long before Darth Vader hit the big screen in 1977 and way before we ever heard of the Bionic Man, prosthetics that were designed to replace lost limbs offered little in terms of movement and were crafted from materials such as wood and other fibres.


Prosthetics have been around since ancient times

In the past, prosthetics tended to look very much like the limbs they were designed to replace.  Jacky Finch, lead author of a 2012 study published in the Journal of Prosthetics & Orthotics, describes two different artificial toes emanating from Ancient Egypt that are believed to be the earliest known artificial limbs.

Prosthetics have been around since ancient times but prosthetic technology did not really take off until the time of the two World Wars.  The ingenuity of engineers was tested by a large number of amputees from war injuries which subsequently resulted in the growth of manufacturers of artificial limbs.

Most people could not afford professionally made artificial limbs until the 20th Century

Since most people could not afford professionally made artificial limbs until the 20th Century, they instead fashioned their own prosthetics out of whatever materials they had to hand.  Believe it or not such consisted of a chair or table leg.

In the late 19th Century people used materials from around the house to design their own prosthetic legs

In the late 19th Century it was not uncommon for people to use materials from around the house, such as wood, nails, textiles and string to design their own prosthetic legs.

Prosthetic arms were slightly more complicated to make in the 1900s

In the 1900s prosthetic arms were slightly more complicated to make.  The image below depicts an arm made by a London based manufacturer fashioned from wood, leather and a type of textile.  A leather strap passes under the undamaged part of the arm like a sling and the wooden hand has a strong rotating wrist with fingers that move.  A small hook in the palm allows the owner to carry or grasp items.


Developing prosthetic technologies – beyond Darth Vader

Given how far we have come in prosthetic technological development since ancient times, there should be no doubt in our minds that technology itself advances at a rapid, exponential rate.  What is seen as science fiction often materializes into realities created by advancing technologies.

For example, technologies exist nowadays that allow implants to be placed in the sensory system to control nerve action as opposed to devices being attached to the body with straps or those that are artificially powered.

Information source:  Jacky Finch, lead author of a 2012 study published in the Journal of Prosthetics & Orthotics

Prosthetic examples pictures source:   Science Museum London

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