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The good doctor who opened Limpopo's first private urogynaecology unit

2019-09-18 00:26

As someone who overcame adversity Dakalo Muavha is giving back to his village and the country

Dakalo Muavha, who recently opened Limpopo’s first private urogynaecology unit and is one of only four qualified practitioners in the country – once broke down and cried after failing an exam during his medical studies at the University of Pretoria.

Muavha grew up in the village of Nwaxinyamani in Makhado, Limpopo and in the first year of varsity the odds were stacked heavily against the young student.

He had been educated in mud schools which had neither a library, science lab nor proper sanitation.

The first time he had seen a test tube or got anywhere near a laboratory was after he completed matric and enrolled for a Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Venda where he spent a year squatting in a fellow student’s room.

Nothing in his life had been easy. He had spent years walking hours to school and, during the rainy season, had to cross a flooded river to get there.

I was coming from a school where we paid R100 a year in fees. But now I was sitting next to someone who had paid R74 000 a year in high school. English was their first language and they had been exposed to so much

After his one year of study at Univen he applied to study medicine at Tukkies. When he received his letter of acceptance he packed his bags and left his village for Pretoria with only R200 for transport in his pocket.

Raised by his single mother Masingita Hlungwani, who fed and paid her three children’s fees by selling tomatoes and doing odd jobs, Muavha was determined to make a a success of his life.

In Pretoria, where he was fascinated by high rise buildings and heavy traffic, he spent a week sharing a single room shack with a family friend and her children in Atteridgeville while awaiting the outcome of several bursary applications.

And when the good news came that he had funding he moved onto campus, for the first time having a room of his own and pocket money – some of which he sent back home to his mom.

Besides having been a top student in high school, the first semester at Tukkies was tough.

The low point was, when having studied all night, he fell asleep from exhaustion and frustration during an exam.

He failed with a dismal 20%. He broke down and walked teary-eyed to his lecturer to plead for assistance.

“I was coming from a school where we paid R100 a year in fees. But now I was sitting next to someone who had paid R74 000 a year in high school. English was their first language and they had been exposed to so much,” reflects Muavha on the challenges faced by many students from a similar background who drop out or fail during the first year of varsity.

Giving up was not an option. His lecturer helped him catch up through extra lessons.

This was the turning point that saw him graduate with a degree in medicine.

Last month Muavha (35), opened a practice at the Netcare Pholoso Hospital in Polokwane, the province’s first. He specialises in urogynaecology – a combination of obstetrics and gynaecology.

After qualifying as a doctor in 2012, Muavha specialised in obstetrics and gynaecology and did a further two years training through the University of Cape Town to super specialise in conditions related to the pelvic floor disorders in women.

Urogynaecology is a relatively new sub speciality globally and was only formally recognised in the US in 2002.

Before then, he says, many women would have been referred to a urologist for bladder problems before being sent to a gynaecologist for womb problems.

Later they would be sent to a colorectal surgeon to treat any bowel disorders.

But an urogynaecologist such as Muavha is trained to deal with all issues related to the pelvic floor and organs, including the bladder, uterus or womb and rectum.

Muavha explains that pelvic floor conditions can result in a variety of problems, including the loss of bladder and / or bowel control.

“Although these disorders are not life threatening, they occur quite commonly and can have a devastating impact on the lives of those affected,” says Muavha, a modern doctor who’s embraced the fourth industrial revolution. He has a YouTube channel where he broadcasts some of his surgical operations. “There are numerous older women in particular who live with severe and embarrassing incontinence disorders. Many are unaware that these can be treated, while others are too embarrassed about the condition to seek medical assistance.

“A number of these women live in fear of public humiliation and consequently stop going to public places and end up living their lives quietly at home.

Dr Dakalo Arnold Muavha, who is one of only four gynaecologists and obstetricians in the country. Picture: Lucas Ledwaba / Mukurukuru Media

“Some are discriminated against, lose their partners and become susceptible to anxiety and depression. These conditions can also impact economically on families, as some women give up their jobs and spend R1 200 a month or more on adult nappies,” he says.

Muavha says that in addition to incontinence problems, pelvic floor disorders may also cause pelvic organ prolapse, a condition in which the uterus, bladder and bowel may “drop” down within the vaginal canal.

“While pelvic floor disorders may have a variety of causes, they occur more commonly in women over the age of 50 who have given birth to a number of children. The older a woman gets, the higher her chances of a pelvic floor disorder of one kind or another, and the risk increases in overweight individuals.”

He is an easy going, jolly fellow with a smile as wide and bright as the slice of a paw-paw, an image more suited to a public relations practitioner than that of a man deeply involved in resolving delicate matters of the human anatomy.

Specialised medical care remains a huge challenge for the poor and those who cannot afford the high fees charged by private medical centres.

Muavha was instrumental in the establishment of the first urogyaenacology unit at the Polokwane provincial hospital.

This has ensured that ordinary folk who require this service and cannot afford high medical costs in private care will no longer have to be referred to Gauteng hospitals but will be attended to right here in their province.

He juggles his schedule between the Polokwane hospital and his Netcare Pholoso practice, working seven days a week most of the time.

Soon he will be conducting lectures at the University of Zimbabwe and hopes to extend his work to Mozambique and ultimately the entire Southern African Development Community region to impart his knowledge and skills.

He is also a committee member of the Pelvic Flow Foundation of SA and the International Urogynaecology Association.

“I take it as a blessing that I have this opportunity to encourage and inspire other people,” says Muavha, a devout Christian who lives by the teaching from Psalm 91.

He is married to his childhood sweetheart, primary school teacher Tsakane.

They met in primary school and share an eight-year-old daughter. Muavha is passionate about motivating and helping others improve their goals.

He is a member of the Swihluke swa Masiza, a group from his alma mater which conducts regular mentoring and motivational talks in his village.

“When I go back to my village I see in young people the young me facing the same challenges. But I want to help them know they can also make it despite the circumstances where they come from.”

Way to go dokotela.

Mukurukuru Media

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October 13 2019