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A Heart-warrior and a Down Syndrome Hero

Avumile was 11 months old when his third-time parents discovered that their baby boy was one of the one percent of babies in the world born with a heart defect. “He was breathing strangely since his birth,” shares heart-dad, Thulani, which is what caused them to get his health checked. “It felt like we were cursed, because we had never experienced such a thing before.” Paediatric cardiologist, Dr Sinyangwe, diagnosed the Khanyi’s little boy prior to his five hour open heart surgery with the Maboneng Heart and Lung Institute. “It was like he was never going to make it,” reflects Thulani, “I remember he was such a tiny thing, so we thought the operation would only take one hour. To make matters worse, he had his operation during lockdown on the 11th of February 2021… so only one parent was allowed in the hospital which, obviously, was his mother. So as a father, I was at home in Mpumalanga”. While Thulani stayed home with their two older children, three hours away from Netcare Sunninghill Hospital, he remembers calling his wife at 6am on the 11th of February 2021. On the phone “she told me that they just took Avumile into theatre… joh, I felt like crying. I was praying. I called Avumile’s mom each and every 20 minutes”. Avumile’s surgery was a success and his recovery in CTICU was “surprisingly quick”. Thulani shares how painful it was to see how much pain their little boy was in - “he couldn’t laugh, or play and if you looked at his scar… I just felt so sorry for my son because he was helpless. The Khanyi family made it through with the support of their family, friends and colleagues and today celebrate everything about their son, including his challenging journey. “I feel he is a hero. I feel very happy… the biggest thing we learnt about this journey is that God indeed is there for each and every one of us and everything that happens in our lives is God’s will. We learnt that nothing is impossible with God… because if it wasn’t his will, even the doctors could not succeed with his operation.” Thulani proudly shares that not only is his son a heart warrior, but a Down Syndrome hero too. One that is deeply loved by his precious family.

Pictures: Thulani Khanyi (shared with permission)

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