Reach for a Dream brought Waseemah Sait one step closer to her wish of owning her own bakery. By Thozama Nozuko
When she was six weeks old, doctors discovered that Waseemah was born with a condition called biliary atresia – the ducts meant to carry bile from her liver to intestines were underdeveloped, resulting in an excess of bile in her liver.
Following a number of unsuccessful operations, Waseemah needed a liver transplant. In the months that passed while waiting for a donor, her condition deteriorated: her eyes and skin were stained yellow, her stomach became distended, making it hard for her to balance and even sit, and her body had difficulty growing.
In the first year of her life, a period when families are usually filled with joy at first steps and first words, the Saits went through countless heart-rending hours in hospital corridors. The doctors’ prognosis wasn’t that good, and they warned the family to start preparing for the worst.
Keeping hope alive
Throughout Waseemah’s ordeal, the family’s hopes and prayers never once wavered. Those prayers were answered when, weeks before Waseemah’s first birthday, a suitable donor liver became available. On the day before she turned one, Waseemah underwent a successful liver transplant.
While her body initially rejected the new organ, with a slight adjustment made to her medication, Waseemah was well on the way to recovery.
Ties that bind
Waseemah has been fortunate enough to grow up in a loving home. Rashaad and Feroza, her parents, and her sisters, Zaakiyah and Shaakirah, have been by her side the whole time, supporting her through all the operations and challenges, navigating school being one. ‘At school, it’s different, because
I have to explain my situation over and over. They ask, “Why are you so small?” or they ask about my teeth, which have been stained dark green after years of medication,’ explains Waseemah. Her answer shows her resilient nature: ‘I just say I’m different.’
The family has drawn strongly from their Muslim faith to see them through the difficult times. And what they have taken away from this experience is a profound respect for God. ‘You realise there is a greater being out there and you have to respect it. It’s out of your control,’ says Rashaad. Perhaps it’s this sense of humility that has enabled the family to feel grateful in spite of all that has happened. ‘It’s brought us closer as a family,’ says Feroza. ‘We’ve remained thankful for the time we’ve been given with Waseemah.’
Earlier this year, the Sait family was connected with Reach for a Dream (RFAD), an organisation started in 1988 that fulfils the dreams of children living with life-threatening illnesses. Feroza had taken her daughter for a monthly check-up when, while sitting in the waiting room, they were approached by an RFAD volunteer.
She sat down with Waseemah, asking her what her three wishes were. ‘The first one was to go to London, because I’m just obsessed with London,’ giggles Waseemah. ‘The second wish was to own a bakery. And the third one was to get a guitar.’
One Saturday morning not long after, the RFAD surprised her with a visit to Knead Bakery at Wembley Square in Cape Town. For five hours, Waseemah, along with her best friend Insaaf and her whole family, rolled out croissants, kneaded bread and put colourful icing patterns on cupcakes. She also got to take home a bag full of baking utensils to get her started on baking at home, as well as some freshly baked goodies to indulge in later. Being given this first small taste of her dream has inspired Waseemah to believe in herself more. ‘From that day onward, I really saw that I want to do this. I want to work towards it.’
The RFAD team kept the surprises coming when they presented her with a new guitar and a voucher for guitar lessons. She was then asked to appear on the SABC3 morning show Expresso with Anel Potgieter, a contestant on M-Net’s MasterChef South Africa, and she helped to make some cupcakes with marshmallow frosting.
As blessed as Waseemah has been in her life, she admits to a dream much closer to her heart. ‘I hope that people will start donating organs, because kids out there need them so that they can also have the life I have had.’