Five minutes with Christina

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your life in Tanzania.

My name is Christina, and I am 15 years old. I live in Dar-es-Salaam, which is the capital city of Tanzania. I live with my Grandma. I am in grade 7 of Oyster Bay Primary School. I have one sister and two brothers. Although living in Tanzania is nice, my life is difficult because of my legs and also because of my family – we all live in different parts of the country, so sadly we don’t see each other often.

Why are you at Children First Foundation?

I am here at Children First Foundation because of my legs.  I was born like this. I try to do everything I can, but it is painful, especially when I lie down the wrong way. The doctors in Tanzania can’t fix and straighten my legs, so that is why I am here in Australia. Three of my friends from Tanzania also got help from Children First Foundation (Rongino, Sevelina and Gerry*). So, my Grandma said I should come here too.

Christina has severely bowed legs, caused by hypophosphatemic rickets – a disorder in which bones become painfully soft and bend easily, due to low levels of phosphate in the blood. Symptoms usually begin in early childhood and can range in severity. If left untreated, it can cause severe bowing of the legs and other bone deformities, bone and joint pain, poor bone growth and a short stature.

A child in Australia with the same condition would be diagnosed early, treated with medications and most likely never need surgery. In fact, babies can be diagnosed before they even show any signs of rickets, in which case the treatment goal for them is to never even fully develop rickets.

What are you most looking forward to doing once your surgery and treatment are complete?

I look forward to playing properly and walking more easily. I also always wanted to be ballerina, so I hope I can learn ballet!

Tell us what you think of your time at The Retreat so far?

Even though I have to wait for a long time for my surgery, being at The Retreat is great! I have made lots of new friends. I love swimming in the pool and really enjoy working on our gardening project.

What are you hopes for the future when you return home?

I hope that my surgery and treatment is good. I will then return back to Tanzania to finish school. Maybe I will be an English Teacher or even a Ballerina! Once I start working, I want to make sure I can help my family.

Since being here, I have become more confident, so I hope that continues, but what I hope for most is that no one laughs anymore at me because of my legs.

Christina arrived in Australia, just before the pandemic started. She is patiently waiting for her surgery and treatment to commence – which has unfortunately been delayed as a result of coronavirus. She will be under the expert and very generous care of Associate Professor Leo Donnan and St Vincent’s Private Hospital. In the meantime, Christina is making the most out of life at The Retreat, having fun with others, getting on with her weekly educational sessions, chores and spreading much sparkle and shine! We will continue to keep you updated with her progress.

*Sevelina, Rongino and Gerry, all from Tanzania were with us during 2013. Sevelina had colorectal surgery, under the care of Professor Chris Kimber at Monash Medical Centre, Clayton.  Meanwhile, Rogino had treatment and surgery for a congenital anomaly in his upper arm bones. He was under the care of Dr Damon Thomas and Dr Chris Harris at Cabrini Hospital, Malvern.  Gerry had surgery for a rare limb deficiency and missing the shin bones in both legs. He was under the care of Associate Professor Leo Donnan at St Vincent’s Private Hospital.

If you would like to help transform the lives of more children like Christina, please donate today.

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