Child health scores as sportsmen partner with hospital

Young people are close to the heart of rugby player Ashley Johnson.
Juan De Jongh on becoming a Tutu Tyger.

As part of Youth Day 2020 celebrations, the Tygerberg Hospital Children’s Trust launched the Tutu Tygers Club.

Four sportsmen who live near the hospital, have taken on the challenge to continue the groundwork of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to tackle poverty and its influence on childhood health and well-being, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cricketer Vernon Philander and rugby players Ashley Johnson, Juan de Jongh and Cornal Hendricks are the Tutu Tygers who will use their influence to drive one of four “baskets of care” – neonatology, specialised care, general paediatrics and social development. “Each Tyger will rally support for a particular campaign which they have adopted as their personal cause,” said CEO of the Trust Jason Falken.

Mr Falken said Archbishop Tutu, who is patron of the trust, and wife Leah Tutu have endorsed the Tutu Tygers Club. “The health and well-being of millions of children in our province are at risk due to poverty, lack of opportunity and are being ignored during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mr Falken.

A project that has already received support from the Tygers is that of Specialist Tygerberg Hospital Paediatrician, Dr Christel Du Buisson. She sent out the call for a Kangaroo Pump after caring for a three-year-old child with a rare disease called Cystinosis. 

Dr Du Boisson said the boy was admitted for six months with a broken femur. But his case is so severe that he needs not only medication but also rigorous feeds at a large volume, said Dr Du Boisson. His mum has to give large volumes of horrible tasting medication every six hours and the pressure has burnt out the mother who is exhausted and yet cannot rest, she said. 

Dr Du Boisson said the child needed a night-time feeding pump, known as a Kangaroo Pump. This device can run food and medication feeds on a timed cycle during the night. Through Tygerberg Hospital Children’s Trust, they purchased a Kangaroo Pump, improving his quality of life as well as that of his mum and older sister.

Mr Philander is focusing on raising awareness of the care of premature babies. He said Tygerberg Hospital treats the highest number of babies under 1 500g in South Africa and was one of the first facilities to employ Kangaroo Mother Care, which involves infants being carried, usually by the mother, with skin-to-skin contact to improve the success rate of preemie babies.

Mr Johnson wants to focus on youth, specifically the many children who require specialised care, as well as the hospital’s status as a world leader in the diagnosis and treatment of paediatric TB and HIV. 

For Mr De Jongh, who is passionate about early childhood development, his emphasis will be on raising awareness about Tygerberg Hospital’s school. The paediatrics department has 210 paediatric and 90 neonatal beds for about half of the 2.4 million children living in the Western Cape who require specialist medical care and the Tygerberg Hospital School plays a big role in providing education and stimulation for child-patients.

Mr Hendricks campaign’, on the other  hand, revolves around outreach initiatives and programmes, including annual children’s outings and camps, sporting programmes and the inclusion of arts and culture in youth engagement.