News / South Africa / Local News

Samantha Traill
3 minute read
2 Feb 2017
3:18 pm

Graphic Image: Witbank cancer survivor’s breast reconstruction goes horribly wrong

Samantha Traill

'I would rather die than go back to that hospital,' the woman said with tears in her eyes

Reinette Henning.

The only thing the breast cancer survivor wanted was to feel like a woman again after she had a double mastectomy two years ago. Instead, she is left with more damage than when she went for the surgery, Witbank News reports.

Reinette Henning, 49, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. She never had medical aid, and at that point, she was about to sell her house to pay for the double mastectomy.

There was no time to waste because she had aggressive cancer, and she needed it done as soon as possible. Before Henning knew it, she was in theatre, and both her breasts were removed.

Not having funds available at that point, she received radiation at a provincial hospital.

Henning went for her reconstruction after she had her double Mastectomy done.

Henning went for her reconstruction after she had her double Mastectomy done.

“My mother was a woman you could always pull through a ring. Well cared for and proud of her appearance,” said her daughter, Natasha Erasmus.

After the mastectomy, she developed a low self-esteem because she felt violated.

In 2016 Henning decided she would like to go for the reconstruction. She managed to save R6 000 for her prosthesis and a provincial hospital was willing to help her.

In November, she had reconstruction done on both of her breasts. The right breast formed properly, while she battled with her left breast. Muscle from her back was used for the reconstruction, but unfortunately, due to the injury that was caused by radiation, the left breast battled to take shape.

Eventually the transplant tissue started turning black. Once a week, she was back in theatre, where they would cut off the dead skin and pull it back together again.

Henning picked up an infection caused by aggressive bacteria in her wound, and for four weeks, there would be a hassle in the hospital with regard to her vac machines, dressings and creams.

READ MORE: Health MEC and Makhura must be ‘criminally charged’ for ‘massacre’-EFF

“Sometimes the vac machine was not available for her and the list of problems just goes on,” said Erasmus.

The wound was forced closed, and the skin around the breast was stretched, and all the blood flow to the wound was cut off.

Within a day, the skin was dead again, and everything turned black. By this stage Henning was too weak for any more anaesthetic, and they undid the stitches and cut the black skin while she was still awake.

“My mother is emotionally broken,” said Erasmus.

While in hospital, besides battling with infection, in her breast she picked up head lice while she lay there.

There was no one there to help bath her, to feed her and even to help her go to the bathroom.

“She was left to lie in her own urine,” said Erasmus.

Henning would cry the whole time while she was in hospital for those two months, and her daughter was afraid that they were going to lose her due to the condition she was in and the conditions of the hospital.

Erasmus has made contact with a plastic surgeon in Cape Town at the Christiaan Barnard Hospital. According to the doctor, he will not be able to do a regular transplant, as the tissue is damaged due to the radiation and what she has been through.

Since Henning has been discharged from hospital, she has picked up another infection. As Henning has no funds available, she will need to raise the money to pay for the hospitalisation.

“I would rather die than go back to that hospital,” said Henning with tears in her eyes.

Caxton News Service

For more news your way, follow The Citizen on Facebook and Twitter.