Maggie Dziko, a Blantyre girl who has been tortured by a heart condition since 2002, knows what it means to live in hell.
Her family is now at the end of the tether, after running out of options to get her back on her feet.
One thing for sure is that they are craving to see her return to the rude health of yore.
Maggie, 21, fell sick in 2002 when she was in Standard Seven. Ten years on, the sickness is only getting worse. Her belly is swelling, she panics and falls breathless time and again.
“It has been hell,” said Maggie, when asked how her life has been since 2002.
Her parents, Ellen and Clemence Dziko, narrated their daughterâ€™s ordeal last week from their house perched on the densely populated hills of Manasseh Township.
After the family went to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in 2002, doctors said Maggie exhibited signs of tuberculosis, so they prescribed an injection.
The family endured the burden of going to the hospital almost every day for the injection. Nothing changed about her â€˜TB.â€™
Maggie was then put on another round of TB treatment. This time, she had to take pills for the whole six months as per requirement.
Nothing improved, and the familyâ€™s worries escalated.
“Whenever she took the TB pills, she would fall even sicker, but we wouldnâ€™t make her abandon the dosage,” said the father.
A doctor then diagnosed a fluid welling up around Maggieâ€™s heart and since then, the only way she feels better is when the fluid is drained.
Maggie has been to the theatre many times than she can manage to list and has seen an equally large number of people in white coats.
She has been tested for HIV, pregnancy and all things doctors look for in a sick person.
Nothing came up.
The family has tried God. The child was sent to camp with a pastor in Lilongwe for a whole month. They have been to prophets around Blantyre, but still could not attract the heavenly healing hand.
She has filled up several medical passport books. She has been to Malamulo and Mlambe hospitals. The father says the toll has been massive.
“The mother is unemployed. I am only a primary school teacher with five other children to look after and her condition is impacting heavily on the running of the household,” he said.
The mother claimed that in April this year after Maggie became seriously ill, she was admitted to QECH for five days without “getting a single pill” and then discharged.
“We went back to an office called OPD 1 and after reporting three times without success, we were sent to a doctor who said he would get back to us as soon as possible. He got our phone number, but never gave us his. He has not called up to now and the child is getting worse, ” she said.
Themba Mhango, QECH chief hospital administrator, said it could help if Maggie took the complaint to the hospital management.
He advised the patient to meet the chief nursing officer at the hospital.
Maggieâ€™s belly has swollen significantly; she spends more time in bed and the family says the fluid that wells up in her needs prompt medical treatment.
Her medical passport has several instances where she is described as a patient with a cardiomyopathy.
“If there is anyone out there, organisation or doctor, that can help my daughter, I would be glad. I feel if she can be flown outside or if a real heart doctor can see her, it would mean a lot to me because at the moment I have hit rock bottom. I donâ€™t know what to do,” said the father.
Maggie said she wishes she lived like a normal person. Her mother said if it were not for her illness, Maggie would have done well in school.
She has gone up to Form Four, but her journey has been erratic.
Nation on Sunday
took Maggieâ€™s story to Dr Tiffany Priester, the only heart specialist Malawi has at the moment, who works at Blantyre Adventist Hospital.
She said cardiomyopathy is when the heart muscle is weak, a situation that causes the organ to pump less blood around the body.
However, Priester said Maggieâ€™s story reads like she has a more complex condition with pericardial effusion which sees fluid accumulating around the heart.
“If someone has a complicated heart disease that has not improved with multiple evaluations, then referral to a cardiologist should be suggested” she said.
She said QECH can refer patients with complicated heart conditions such as Maggie to specialists like her for cardiology review.