Emile and Vicky Labuschagne
Age of parents:
38 and 36
Age: 7 years
Is this your only child?
No, older brother of 10 years.
Diagnosis of child:
Epilepsy. Focal Cortical Dysplasia, Refractory Focal Seizures (in the right frontal lobe)
What are the biggest challenges facing your child on a daily basis?
There has been many challenges over the last couple of years but for now our challenges are about helping her to catch up with her developmental delays and to build up her self-confidence. Mariska receives neuro physio - she couldn’t move her left leg post surgery but she is now able to walk, which is so amazing. She still has weakness in her ankle area and cant move it yet.
What are the happiest moments you have with your child on a daily basis?
It’s seeing the relief in her eyes, that the seizures are mostly under control. We don’t know what the future will hold, we live for today.
Are you married?
Has your special needs child had an effect on your marriage?
Mariska’s illness had a affect on our marriage, having to make life changing and threatening decisions. I blamed myself for her condition - Did I do something wrong? Sleepless nights and worrying that my my little girl had to go through so much. We counted a 1000 seizures over 15 months.
Having spoken of the stress, strain and worry we both feel that this journey with Mariska has made our relationship stronger and we could not have gone through this if we didn’t have each other.
Our belief in God has been important for us and our faith has helped and guided us through.
Not only does a sick child have an affect on your marriage but on the other siblings too. Dewald her older brother had to see the seizures and how sick his sister was, it was so difficult for him. I had little time for him as Mariska required 24/7 care. Dewald had to stay with our best friends in Gauteng for 3 weeks to write his exams, we were with Mariska in the Western Cape. Dewald refuses to have sleepovers anymore and if he has a play date, he asks a million questions to make sure we don’t leave him.
Are your family and friends supportive?
Yes, to an extent. My friends have been very supportive and they have been with us throughout this journey. I am part of a support group of moms that I met through the Keto Diet and I am so gratefull for them - I don’t feel alone.
What has your child taught you about yourself, both positively and negatively?
Through this journey, Mariska has taught us so many life lessons and made us grow as human beings. She has been such an inspiration to so many people, our family and friends.
She has taught us to never give up. After her second surgery and the implementation of the Keto Diet, Mariska was very angry towards me. I was shocked to realise that she associated me with the pain, surgery, needles, countless days in hospital etc. When your child has epilepsy - you eat, sleep and work Epilepsy. This was an important reminder to shift my focus away from her illness and not let epilepsy consume me or my relationship with my daughter.
Do you take time out, if so what do you do to relax?
No not really but we try and get out of Gauteng every weekend to the farm where we can all just have fun and relax.
What has made the biggest difference to your child’s quality of life?
Definitely Mariska’s Surgery. Dr Butler and Dr Melvill gave her a second chance in life.
What is your dream for your child?
My dream for my child is to be happy and for her to be healthy.