I'm probably the last person to be writing about this because I don't claim to be an authority on any particular condition — except perhaps hemochromatosis and the searing reflux suffered when I’ve devoured too much chocolate at bedtime! I have, however, embarked on the study in order to try and help a very dear friend (like me a South African expat now living in Canada) understand how and why she came to have this awful condition. I have decided to do this in two ways: first, as a physician would, I’ll try to construct a case history of all that has befallen her since she was a child. Then I'm going onto the Internet to see what I can find there.
Background and Case History
Evidently she was a very healthy, active child. She tells me that her father, a Latin scholar, had a nickname for her which meant “Happiness" or “Happy." Her sister, who was 10 years older than she was, would tease her active little sibling, scoffing that this moniker was rather deserved because, like Felix the Cat in the cartoons of the day, she ‘kept on walking!’ which, from all accounts, was a gross understatement. She would always rather run than walk!
Their father died when my friend was six, and her sister, who was really a very loving and caring person, became the chief breadwinner but was not always able to have the young one with her. At one stage in her life, the child, then 11 years old, was left to stay with an aged friend of the family in a little town called Aberdeen, in the dry Karroo area of South Africa, where she was lonely enough to join almost every Sunday School in the place so that she would be entitled to attend picnics — where she would inevitably end up with numerous boxes of handkerchiefs, won for sprinting!
Eighteen months later, after joining her sister in Cape Town, she was enrolled at a good school, where she was an enthusiastic gymnast excelling in “vaulting the horse,” rope-climbing, and running, until one day, about three months later, she began to hobble, and an observant teacher noticed that her young student’s left knee was grossly swollen. A doctor who examined her recommended three months of bed rest, at the end of which she returned to school; but she was hardly there when the other knee began to swell. Other disquieting symptoms prompted the doctor to refer her to an eminent specialist at the famous Groote Schuur Hospital.