'I raised the wrong son for 20 years'

A 43-year-old woman from Kagiso on the West Rand has lodged a R40m lawsuit against the Gauteng department of health for trauma she suffered as a result of a baby mix up. / Veli Nhlapo
A 43-year-old woman from Kagiso on the West Rand has lodged a R40m lawsuit against the Gauteng department of health for trauma she suffered as a result of a baby mix up. / Veli Nhlapo
Image: Veli Nhlapo

A mother whose newborn boy was swapped with another in a hospital mix-up 20 years ago wants her biological son back.

Maki*, of Kagiso on the West Rand, learnt with shock five years ago that a 20-year-old man she had raised as her own son was in fact not hers.

The 43-year-old mother of five told Sowetan that she came to know about the mix-up when she took her ex-husband to court to force him to pay child maintenance for their children.

The father demanded DNA tests on four children before committing to pay child support. The tests were done on all her children and both parents in 2014.

The results came back positive for her and her husband and their three children and showed, however, that they were not biological parents to the 20 year-old who was a teen then.

"It just didn't make sense to me what the results meant, I just cried and didn't know what to do or where to go," Maki said.

She believes that her biological son, born in August 1998, may have been swapped by a nurse at Dr Yusuf Dadoo Hospital (then Paardekraal Hospital) in Krugersdorp.

Maki, who works as cleaner, said a second DNA test was conducted again in 2014, but the results remained the same. A third test was conducted last year, but also produced the same results.

"I remember the nurse showing me the baby's private parts, saying to me: 'it's a boy', before taking him away after I gave birth to him," Maki said.

An hour later, she said, the same nurse returned with the baby, washed and with a tag bearing Maki's surname.

She said the hospital told her that the woman she shared a ward with on the day, who could have ended up with her biological son, cannot be traced because she was a foreigner.

Maki lodged a R40m lawsuit against the Gauteng department of health for trauma she suffered as a result of the mix-up.

In March 2016, the department offered Maki and the 20- year-old R2-million out-of-court settlement in a letter addressed to their lawyers.

"We therefore offer your client, as compensation for the unfortunate incident that originated from our hospital, an amount of R2m being full and final settlement," the letter stated.

The letter was signed by the then chief director for legal services, a Mr T Mlambo.

Maki rejected the offer, leading to a protracted legal battle in the South Gauteng High Court, which is set to be heard only in 2021. But the mix-up tore apart Maki's family after the 20-year-old man left the family home after learning of blunder.

"Since the results came, I don't know how to treat him, I can't even chastise him anymore because I'm afraid he might think I'm harsh on him due to him not being my biological child," a tearful Maki told Sowetan at the weekend.

"My heart is sore ... my 'son' has become so rebellious, the other day I came across a note he wrote about this, and he now barely visits home," she said.

"I just want to see this matter end. It stresses me a lot. I can't even sleep anymore."

The mother said she has had to cancel counselling which had been organised for her by the state because she's worried about losing her job.

"The counselling needed us [and her son] to attend every month, I stopped in 2017 because I couldn't afford to be absent from work continuously," she said.

The Gauteng department of health head of legal advocate Mpelegeng Lebeloane confirmed the case, but refused to comment on the matter, saying it was still pending and was being ventilated at the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

*Not her real name. Sowetan has withheld the name of the mother to protect her minor children.

Man pens letter about heartbreak, identity crisis

Part of the letter written by a 20-year-old man who discovered that the couple that raised him were not his biological parents.
Part of the letter written by a 20-year-old man who discovered that the couple that raised him were not his biological parents.

The 20-year-old man who recently discovered that the people who raised him were not his biological parents wrote a five-page letter detailing his trauma.

The family said they discovered the letter, written in 2017, in which the man expressed his heartbreak of finding out the truth and spoke of having suicidal thoughts.

He described his life as "a mess" and stated that he felt he's the cause of his parents' separation.

In the letter titled "Do I love my life?", he reflected on the DNA tests and how he has resorted to smoking marijuana because it helped his head stay "focused" and not think about the results, which often made him cry.

"Crying won't help ... I don't have anyone to talk to. I don't wanna include my friends in this," he wrote.

The man continued: "The fact is I don't know what to do or say to my mom that I found out she is not my biological mom."

He said he didn't even know which surname to use and felt the family no longer trusted him and often wondered what would happen if they found their biological son.

"When I think of running or killing myself, what will I gain?"

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