At just 13-years-old, Duncan Vermeulen faces obstacles many teenagers his age can never imagine.
He was born with a disorder which resulted in his legs pulling up to his chest and leaving him unable to walk. His mother, Louise, having to push him around in a pram.
“Duncan was born prematurely. I had him when I was five and a half months pregnant and the part of the brain which helps with mobility was not fully developed,” says Louise.
While dreaming of Duncan leading a normal life, the Vermeulen family never imagined their lives would change in a heartbeat.
“My husband and I first met Duncan and his mother eight years ago in Utrecht. His mother was pushing him in a pram and we noticed something was wrong with him,” says Zanmari Combrink.
The couple stopped and soon learned about Duncan’s issue. Duncan was five-years-old at the time, and the couple knew they had to do something to help him.
Utrecht resident, Mavis Arends, and Lourens Combrink then established the Shalom Help Fund. “Funds were then raised through the kindness of an amazing sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous. Duncan was then taken to the Little Company of Mary Hospital for his first operation,” says Zanmari.
Louise explains the first procedure saw doctors cut his ligaments in both his legs, as well in the groin area. This was to stretch the ligaments, which was the first step in him leading a normal life.
Since then, he has undergone six more operations. One of which saw doctors amputate and reattach his legs to ensure they were straight and fully functional. This is all thanks to the Combrink family and Mavis Arends setting up the Shalom Help Fund.
While now fairly mobile, Duncan still can’t enjoy the mobility of his peers. “My family and I recently went to Pietermaritzburg and Duncan’s story came up at a family function. We knew he needed a wheelchair and were discussing how we were going to go about getting it,” says Zanmari.
Little did she know, that a Good Samaritan was nearby and listening to the discussion. “Following the family event, we went to an athletic function. On our way back, I got a phone call to say someone had bought Duncan a wheelchair and we needed to pick it up.”
The identity of the donor is unknown, but the Combrink and Vermeulen family are elated and thankful for the generosity of the unnamed stranger.
While the wheelchair will offer Duncan a certain amount of relief, he does face further obstacles.
On November 23, he will be undergoing his eighth operation. This procedure will see doctors breaking his big toes, cutting into his foot, removing some bone and putting wires into his feet.
“At the moment, his toes are pulling under each other. The doctors will have to pull them straight through the procedure,” Louise explains.
However, Zanmari says they are looking for assistance from the community. Louise is unemployed and her husband was recently retrenched. With the family facing financial constraints and the procedure set to be costly, the community’s help will be appreciated.
“We are hoping to raise enough funds for Duncan before the procedure,” says Zanmari, as it will allow him the opportunity to lead a more active life.
With the Shalom Help Fund set in place, the community can ensure Duncan can face a brighter future by contributing to his cause.
However, Duncan is not the only disabled child which can benefit from the fund. “The Shalom Help Fund is there for disabled children who come from less fortunate homes,” Zanmari explains.
With that in mind, those wishing to contribute to Duncan’s operation and helping disabled children can contact either Zanmari Combrink on 084 826 5547, Lourens Combrink on 082 856 8756 or Mavis Arends on 082 926 7884.