Despite writing exam papers in hospital, René Swart achieved three distinctions.
North West, South Africa (17 August 2021) – The 22-year-old René Swart, a first-year student in pharmacy at the North-West University in Potchefstroom, attributed the stomach pain she experienced on 21 May 2021 to the stress of a driving license test. Little did she know that her condition would land her in Wilmed Park Hospital in Klerksdorp for more than two months. Nevertheless, Swart achieved three distinctions in exams she wrote from her hospital bed.
Swart was admitted to the Mediclinic in Potchefstroom on 29 May, where doctors found that she had a thickening on her colon. Shortly afterwards, she was transferred to the Wilmed Park Hospital in Klerksdorp, where she was diagnosed with a bacterial infection in her colon.
She was discharged from the hospital on Friday and is currently recovering at her parents’ home in Lyttelton in Centurion, Gauteng.
“I initially asked a friend to buy me Buscopan medication for stomach pain. However, I later noticed blue spots on my hips and realized something was terribly wrong. My parents then came through and took me to the hospital.”
Swart and her parents were informed shortly after her transfer that she would have to undergo surgery.
“Due to the infection, stomach juices leaked from the colon into my abdomen. A piece of my colon had to be cut away and the abdomen had to be cleaned,” she said.
However, she could not immediately undergo the operation as the infection had damaged her platelets.
“In the meantime, I was treated with medication and also had to have a blood transfusion. I was then operated on a few days after my admission and will have to carry a stoma bag until I can undergo surgery again in about three months.”
On top of that, the blue spots she noticed on her body were bleeding under the skin that was also caused by the infection.
“As a result, a lot of tissue under my skin died and I had to undergo skin graft surgery in various places – especially on the lower part of my body. It was a very painful process.”
Swart says she had to go back to the theatre about once a week, where her wounds were cleaned and
“Several times sepsis developed which also had to be cleaned up. I oftentimes cried from the pain.”
However, Swart says she was motivated to complete her exams, despite the situation in which she found herself.
“I worked very hard to get where I am and did not want to redo the year.”
Swart completed her BSc degree in biology and psychology, after which she began pharmacy.
“It was sometimes a challenge to study the hospital. There were a lot of interruptions and I couldn’t really sit up straight. I am used to summarize my work and then learning these summaries in silence.”
However, she says the support of her family, lecturers and the hospital staff carried her through, as well as the counselling she received.
“The counselor told me it’s okay to sometimes feel discouraged and frustrated. I’m finally through it.”
Shortly before her sudden medical setback, Swart was removed from her father, Albert’s occupational medicine fund.
Meanwhile, the family’s medical expenses are piling up. Loved ones, therefore, set up a fund for her on Back a Buddy in the hope of helping the family with the medical costs.
Swart will have to visit the doctor again in three weeks and will have to undergo several more treatments and receive possible follow-up surgeries.