Sam to walk again thanks to a team of angels

Sam to walk again thanks to a team of angels

Six months ago, when 8 year old Samukeliswe Ngcobo (Sam) had a minor fall outside her Durban home while playing with friends, little did she know that life as she knew it, would never be the same. 


Mum Lillian took Sam to a local government hospital where X-rays confirmed a fractured right femur. However, the diagnosis was more sombre. A tumour (osteosarcoma) had developed and invaded the bone. It was recommended that Sam’s leg be amputated. Her distraught mum was referred to Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeon, Dr Rinesh Chetty, in Durban North.

Lillian was overwhelmed by the costs involved in the proposed surgery. Her medical aid covered very little and was taking a long time to approve funding. Dr Chetty recommended that Sam remain in the government hospital as it had all the expertise and services to treat her without being constrained by medical funding.

Nearly three weeks went by and Dr Chetty assumed that surgery was complete and Sam was on the road to recovery. He was dismayed when mum and daughter visited him again with Lillian explaining that further treatment was delayed due to a long waiting list and a lack of financial resources. With a month-long delay already, time was fast running out. The tumour proved to be extremely aggressive and required immediate chemotherapy and surgery. Medical aid needed a further two to three weeks to approve the chemo. 


Dr Chetty called in Dr N. Zwane, City Hospital's oncologist, and he agreed to start chemo, using his own stock on a pro bono basis as any further delays would mean risking further spread of the tumour 

The doctors sort the expert opinion of Dr Nando Ferreira, a tumour orthopaedic surgeon at Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. He too agreed to review Sam’s case on a pro bono basis, and recommended an amputation above the right knee. Sam was unfortunately too young for a limb saving procedure and the tumour was already too far spread.

While her family grappled to come to grips with this heartbreaking news, brave little Sam provided comfort and solace.  “One day when I walked into the ward to talk to the mum, I saw the most unbelievable thing,” Dr Chetty told East Coast Radio’s Damon Beard during The Big Favour this week. “Here was an 8 year old girl holding her mum’s hand, looking her straight in the eye and saying, ‘Mum I know that I need to have my leg removed. I know that I need to have the surgery so please let me do it because I want to be healthy and happy and I want to be around to take care of you.’” 

After a few weeks of chemotherapy, Dr Zwane decided that the child was ready for surgery. Dr Chetty was assisted in theatre by general surgeon Dr M. Noorbhai. Sam spent four days in ICU before being moved to a general ward. The brave little girl did not cry once during the entire traumatic experience. 

Mum Lillian rejoiced after tests showed the child was tumour-free. But the trauma was far from over. Sam needed a prosthetic leg that her medical aid did not cover. Once again, a team of angels came to her rescue. 

Dr Chetty together with help from Dr Zwane, Jacky Church from Ossur SA and Prosthetist, Kelvin Moothusamy, are sponsoring the prosthetic leg for Sam. Marlene Naicker from On Track Physiotherapy in Durban North has offered Sam free treatment until she is 18 years old. 

Speaking to ECR’s Damon Beard at the station’s studio in Umhlanga, a smiling Sam said she was feeling “fine”. Mum Lillian was visibly overwhelmed by the kindness shown to her little girl. “It has been very hard but the support and help I got from everyone is just amazing.”

“Sam’s willingness to accept her diagnosis and treatment showed me what real courage and bravery is,” Dr Chetty explained onair. “I treat all my patients like family and as a new dad I was drawn to Sam because she reminded me so much of my daughter. And after seeing her willingness to fight so hard, the least I could do was help her get a new leg.” 

“This is just an amazing story of this young girl’s immense bravery in the face of adversity and the team of selfless individuals who have come to her aid,” says Damon who hosts the multiple award-winning feature, The Big Favour, every week. “There are many lessons in this incredible story for all of us.”

Sam says it’s easy walking with crutches at the moment but soon she will be able to pack them away, thanks to her prosthesis, and the team of angels who have made it possible for her to walk again.

Take a listen to this.


Specialist Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr Rinesh Chetty

Dr Zwane

Jacky Church from Ossur SA

Prosthetist Kelvin Moothusamy

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