The damaged generation: Mother-in-law said she was cursed

Cynthia Magwayi (30)

Child’s name: Chumani Magwayi (8)

Born at: Pholosong Hospital in Ekurhuleni

Cause of cerebral palsy: Brain injury

Case: Sued the state in 2009 for R13.9 million. The Gauteng Health MEC accepted liability on Thursday (August 29)

Chumani drools constantly as he bunny-hops around his two-room RDP house.

When he hears noises he turns, smiles and mumbles. But that’s about as far as the eight-year-old boy can communicate.

Chumani suffers from cerebral palsy caused by a brain injury he suffered during birth at the Pholosong Hospital on Gauteng’s East Rand. He can’t walk, speak properly, sit upright or use his hands. He also has trouble swallowing.

Chumani’s mother, Cynthia Magwayi from Tsakane, Ekurhuleni, remains too traumatised by her son’s birth to have any more children.

She was 22 years old when she gave birth to him. She carried him for a full term and had a problem-free pregnancy, said staff at her local clinic, and she dreamed her son would one day become a doctor.

On June 26 2005, Magwayi went into labour and was rushed to Pholosong Hospital in Tsakane. The contractions had started but they were not severe. She was examined by a midwife who said she had not dilated enough and admitted her.

She stayed in hospital for another day and hospital records show that her progress was slow. The next day a midwife decided that she must be taken to the labour ward where they would help her give birth because she was becoming weak and the baby was also in distress.

“Three nurses assisted me to give birth. One was pushing my stomach on the sides while the others were using instruments to pull the baby out,” Magwayi said.

The young woman cannot remember what instruments were used, but hospital records show that the midwife used forceps and a vacuum extractor.

When Chumani was eventually born, he didn’t cry.

“Nurses cleaned him up and placed in an incubator before taking him to the neonatal unit,” said Magwayi. She left the next day. He stayed for another two weeks.

Chumani’s cerebral palsy nearly broke up Magwayi’s marriage.

Her mother-in-law refused to accept her son, saying that nobody in her family had ever given birth to a “snake”.

Magwayi claimed her mother-in-law told her she was cursed and she didn’t want her to be part of her family. And she began to believe her.

“I started blaming myself, thinking maybe it was true that I was cursed or maybe I did something wrong which caused my son to be disabled.”

But she realised it wasn’t her fault after a doctor at the hospital told her that his brain injury during birth caused his condition.

But still, Magwayi has decided not to have another baby and her husband feels the same way.

“We both fear that if we have another child he might suffer like Chumani did,” she said.