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My name is Kerry Ann Van Der Merwe and I am proud to represent PECTUS EXCAVATUM and POLAND Syndrome.
My story dates back to the early 90’s which was an emotional rollercoaster of a ride, so I will spare you all those details.I was born with Pectus Excavatum and Poland Syndrome which only developed when I was 14/15 years of age. It reared it’s ugly head as I went through puberty.
To date I have had 4 breast augmentations and one major chest wall reconstruction. My first surgery was at the tender age of 16. The Dr’s decided to insert a silicone implant into my right breast. This was to make my breasts look symmetric and it worked a real treat. I became a confident young woman. As the years went by I noticed my chest had taken a new shape and this lead to new talks/plans about having chest wall surgery.
At that time I was a South African immigrant and I had to join a PVT medical aid in order to have such an expensive operation carried out. This wasn’t something any Dr could and would perform under the government hospital facility.
I wrote a story about myself and my PE/Poland Syndrome and started a fundraiser which caught the attention of a tv show. This show was called The Felicia Show and the topic was on rare diseases and deformities. On the show I spoke about the health complications that came with my Syndromes and my plea was to seek any kind of help in order to have the necessary surgery with this American Dr. I had made enquires with Dr. Fonkalsrud in America prior to the show being aired and through this I did get offered tickets by Richard Branson to fly first class to America and back. Sadly we didn’t make enough serious funds to pay for the American surgery and so we thanked Richard Branson for his kind offer but sadly declined. After the show was aired I had this Dr call me and asked if we could meet at his South African suits.
Long story short…. I met with this Cardio Thoracic Vascular Surgeon and he offered to carry out my surgery at his PVT hospital. He offered his services free of charge and all I had to pay for through my medical aid and financial help through my mother was the hospital and plastic surgeon costs.
We agreed and the surgery date was booked.
At the age of 29 I had my chest wall surgery. I was meant to have what was thought to be the Ravitch procedure but when the surgeon opened me up he noticed the ribs on my right side had fused together into one solid bone. He immediately stopped the operation and consulted with my mother about other options. When I woke up I found out that the surgeon ended up sawing through my sternum/breastbone, turned it around and re-inserted it with plates. I had 13 ribs removed, a stomach and a diaphragm lift. I also had my breasts enlarged to help even out my chest. I had been given Perspex plates which were donated by some wonderful specialist from Holland and these were used in place where my ribs had been removed.
Miraculously I survived this invasive surgery and made news headlines… I even stared in the local newspaper and made medical history for the surgeon and the hospital.
Upon reflection the days after the surgery which I often refer to as my dark days, recovery was incredibly painful and difficult. Looking back it took around a year and a half to recover. I was in and out of hospital with a few complications i.e.: septicaemia, failed skin grafts, silicone breast removal then re-insertion, punctured right lung, anorexia, loss of muscle mass. Pain medication, bio-Kinects, cancer patient medication to help bulk me up….it was a long hard road.
14 years on I have been blessed with having my beautiful miracle child Izabella Rose and just gotten on with life as best as possible really. You might all ask….So what saved me and my mind set back then? Well I can tell you I entered a spiritual path of self reflection, meditation, I wore specific crystals, I bathed in crystals, I went on courses and became a tarot reader and Reiki healer. I did the walk of life and this my friends healed my mind, body and spirit and made me the strong woman and mother I am today. My motto is if you can heal your mind, you can heal your body.
I have since accomplished all my life’s goals and become a qualified 5 star rated hairdresser, Hairdressing Assessor, Teacher/Trainer and now recently a qualified Hairdressing Internal Quality Assurer.
Nothing stops me and I take on any challenge that my body permits. So if you have read my story and enjoyed it then I smile and thank you. I do hope to hear your recovery stories and what has made you Pectus Strong.
I look forward to any questions you may have and thank Robert for sharing my story.
Kind Regards, Kerry (Now currently living in Devon)
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