Namibia: 'Baby Vossy' Undergoes Successful Operation

SIX-MONTH-OLD baby Vossy Timotheus, who was bitten by rats in Windhoek's Goreangab informal settlement on Wednesday, may have partial vision in the affected eye following a successful operation.

The Namibian reported yesterday that baby Vossy was bitten by rats on his right eye on Wednesday which are allegedly kept as pets by his uncle.

Although The Namibian was initially informed and reported that baby Vossy was bitten by mice, it later emerged that they were in fact rats.

Ophthalmologist at the Windhoek Central Hospital, Dr Helena Ndume, yesterday said the toddler did not lose his right eye as expected, as it was luckily only the cornea which was bitten by the rats.

"On Wednesday, we could not look at the eye because the child was crying, and the way it looked it was like the iris was out. When we went to theatre, we realised it was the upper cornea which is off, and we could save the eye," she explained.

Ndume said the toddler would not be able to completely see with his right eye since there will be a scar. He will, however, have some form of vision from the eye.

"We still want to keep the child [under observation] for three days so that we can put proper antibiotics inside," she added.

However, the doctor said they have not drained the excess fluid in his brain because the hospital does not have the machinery for it.

Baby Vossy has hydrocephalus, which is the build-up of fluid in the cavities deep within the brain. The excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles, and puts pressure on the brain.

Ndume explained that they would need a ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt, which is a medical device that helps remove extra fluid from the brain.

"We need the VP shunt to remove the water so that the brain does not get a lot of swelling, and to avoid any complications," she added.

The doctor further said "they didn't do the VP shunt because the government does not have money to buy it. It's not him alone who cannot be operated on because of that; there are many like him. There is a long waiting list of patients who cannot be operated on."

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)'s branch manager Sylvia Breitenstein, who visited the shack in Goreangab yesterday, said removing the rats with pesticides could have a side-effect on the family.

She said if a cat or child touched the rat after they use pesticide, they could get sick.

Breitenstein added that they have called pest control experts to find a solution to remove the rats.

Where did the rats come from?

Police inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga told The Namibian yesterday that the owner of the rats had admitted that he brought two rats as pets, but after some time, they multiplied so much that they became uncontrollable.

"The owner is not staying there anymore, but his younger sisters remained in the house until now under those circumstances. He apparently did not know what to do, or where to report the pests. The neighbours are also complaining that these big rats are running around their yards," the police chief stated.

Ndeitunga said the man allegedly planned on using poison to exterminate them, but could not as his sister's children were in the house, and he feared for their safety.

"The situation first needs to stabilise with regards to these rodents before a consideration of any other steps. We will obtain statements from the social workers, and pursue an investigation into the matter," he continued.

When The Namibian visited the shack yesterday, Emmanuel Iikela - Hambeleleni David's other brother - said he had warned her on multiple occasions not to leave baby Vossy alone in the house, especially after the first incident when the rodents bit his nose.

He said the brother, who lives on the connecting shack behind the main house, brought the rats in a cage, but they later escaped confinement.

"It was impossible for us to catch them when they escaped because there is a hole in the ground. When you walk around in the house, they run back into their hole," he narrated.

Iikela said they have tried many times to remove the rats, but to no avail.

Speaking to The Namibian yesterday, the brother - who preferred anonymity to avoid victimisation - said he understands that he is at fault and feels guilty about what happened to his nephew.

He explained that he had the rats when he lived in Windhoek West and brought them with him when he moved. He further said he had tried to get rid of them when the first incident happened but they returned.

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