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A life with foetal alcohol syndrome

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POLOKWANE- World Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Day is commemorated at nine minutes past nine on the ninth day of the ninth month, to remind women that they should not drink alcohol for the nine months of their pregnancy. South Africa is reported as having the highest incidence of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world.

Polokwane Observer spoke to Sue Pitcairn, a Professional nurse at Sanca Limpopo, who says alcohol is harmful to unborn babies, who may be born with physical defects, abnormal facial characteristics and brain damage leading to developmental delays and learning difficulties.

According to the legal guardian of a 12-year-old girl with the syndrome, it is extremely difficult to care for a child with the syndrome as they require so much love and attention. She says the medical bills are also very hefty.

The biological mother of the girl was an alcoholic who refused to stop drinking during her pregnancy, and as a result her daughter was born premature with physical and mental defects.

“Her mother left her just after she turned one and I have been taking care of her since. She has grown to be a lovely girl with a cheeky personality but a lot of hard work had to be put into it.”

She tells us that the family had to go through years of medical consultation in order to try and normalise her life. This also included counselling for the girl and the rest of the family. “She knows what is going on in her, and its quite painful that she has to live her life this way because her mother could not put the bottle down. It is not right that she has to endure bullying and stigmatisation for something that is out of her control.”

She says she wishes more information about the syndrome can be shared with the world, especially young mothers in order to reduce the rate of infection. “If we can get this information into schools, a huge difference will be made. People need to learn to not depend on alcohol and understand that it is dangerous in any stage of the pregnancy,” she concluded.

Story: Umpha Manenzhe