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A tiny warrior’s triumph

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The Kimberley community came together this week to participate in a fun run/walk in aid of a heartwarming cause.

Estél von Molendorff’s was born with an underdeveloped stomach and was not able to swallow. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE KIMBERLEY community came together this week to participate in the OATSA Fun Run/Walk, hosted in partnership with Kimberley Harriers Running Club.

This event wasn’t just about fitness and fun; it was a heartwarming gesture of support for a very special little fighter, Estél von Molendorff, who was born at Mediclinic Bloemfontein on June 20, 2023.

Estél’s journey began with adversity and courage right from the get-go. It was during the 32nd week of her mother’s pregnancy that Kimberley doctors made a startling discovery – there was an excess of amniotic fluid in the womb.

Initial tests ruled out pregnancy-related diabetes, but an ultrasound raised concerns. Estél’s stomach appeared underdeveloped, raising suspicions that she was not able to swallow, and of a possible issue with her oesophagus, although it couldn’t be confirmed until her birth.

At 35 weeks, the doctors made the difficult decision to refer Estél and her mother from Kimberley to Bloemfontein. Kimberley lacked a paediatric surgeon and this was a necessary step in the family’s quest for answers.

On the 36th week, Estél made her grand entrance into the world through an emergency C-section. Just two days after her birth she underwent surgery to determine the nature of her esophageal atresia, which was either a “short gap” or a “long gap”.

In the case of a short gap, the oesophagus needed stretching, while a long gap would require another surgery when Estél reached around six months of age to position her stomach behind her heart.

After an anxious 36-day stay in the neonatal ICU, Estél finally got to go home. However, her underdeveloped stomach necessitated a unique feeding schedule: 1ml of nourishment every three hours through a mic-key (feeding tube) inserted into her stomach with a tiny hole in her neck for saliva drainage.

Seen from left are Estél’s aunt, Anél Victor, Estél and her mother, Christel von Molendorff. Picture: Danie van der Lith

Estél’s family embarked on a journey to seek answers and connect with others facing similar challenges. The internet provided limited information, as this condition is incredibly rare.

Fortunately, their quest led them to a doctor in Cape Town who had faced a similar situation. This doctor introduced them to the OATSA organisation, dedicated to helping families confront similar circumstances.

Estél’s aunt, Anél Victor, was deeply moved and decided to become more involved, ultimately joining OATSA as the Northern Cape ambassador.

With the aim of raising awareness, Anél organised the fun run in Kimberley on October 24 with the invaluable support of Kimberley Harriers, who played a crucial role in hosting the event.

Donations of R9,000 collected during the event will now go towards aiding families and patients facing similar challenges and spreading awareness about the programme.

Anyone who is interested in getting involved or learning more about the programme can contact Anél Victor at 076 088 5020 or visit OATSA’s website at www.oatsa.co.za. There’s also a WhatsApp support group at 072 864 3926 and a Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/OATSA.

The four-kilometre fun run raised a total of R9,000 that will go towards aiding families and patients facing similar challenges and spreading awareness about the programme. Picture: Danie van der Lith

On behalf of OATSA, Anél extended her heartfelt gratitude to the wonderful people of Kimberley. She thanked those who joined in for the 4-kilometre walk, the generous donors and sponsors, the kind-hearted ladies who assisted with registrations, and the vigilant men who ensured everyone’s safety during the event.

OATSA is not just a non-profit organisation; it’s a beacon of hope and support for those facing the unique challenges of oesophageal atresia (food pipe). The event in Kimberley has not only brought the community closer but also shed light on a rare medical condition, uniting everyone in support of the brave little Estél and children like her.

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