Imke Geldenhuys, has put up a brave fight against stage 4 Neuroblastoma cancer since her diagnosis at the beginning of the year, the Letaba Herald reports.
But by June, doctors told her parents they had run out of treatment options, and that there was nothing more they could do for Imke.
After intensive searching, her parents came across immunotherapy, a treatment programme at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre (New York) that offered a 70% survival rate – at a cost of $700 000 (about R10 million). It seemed an impossible amount to raise.
However, as public awareness of Imke’s plight gained momentum, people from across the country and the world started contributing to her trust in the hope of saving her life. From personal to business donations, from pancake sales to school projects, donations continuously trickled in.
But many couldn’t help shaking their heads when considering the amount that was needed to save little Imke, and the timeframe in which it had to happen.
While kind strangers were hard at work on initiatives to raise funds for this little princess, Imke was bravely soldiering on within the confined walls of hospitals.
Three more operations would follow, including one to remove her tumor, countless more agonising injections to boost her white blood count, blood transfusions, stem cell harvesting and two rounds of chemo, each administered for 24 hours, five days in a row. Each chemo session was followed by weeks in isolation.
Her father Darius Geldenhuys said: “Two weeks ago Imke ran a fever with absolutely no immunity left to fight it – all we could do was continue to pray over her limp body and trust God for yet another miracle. The doctor told us afterwards that she’s just dodged the bullet – we didn’t realise it at the time, but that day was the closest we came to losing our little girl.”
Perhaps a sign of the miracle to come was that the oncologist at Memorial Sloan, via a brilliant South African oncologist, was already treating Imke remotely with a specific chemo protocol.
Imke was being prepared for the immunotherapy treatments in the US – but with no assurance that when the chemo treatments ran their course, there would be enough money raised to send her to the US. All they had was hope and prayer.
Video: Meet Imke Geldenhuys:
After a cleared MRI scan, Imke was finally ready for immunotherapy – but were there enough funds available to pay the $500 000 that Memorial Sloane needed in order to issue the invite required for the medical visas to the US?
Somehow, a country became part of a miracle because more than R8 million rand was raised in just over three months.
By the end of last week, the total balance of Imke’s account at Memorial Sloane was $535 835.
Their invitation from the hospital was issued, and within a few days the family had their US visas approved. Local travel agency Travel With Flair wasted not a moment to book the family’s complimentary flights – Imke and her entire family will fly out to New York, tomorrow, September 17.
Wikus Oliver, DebtSafe’s debt expert and one of the mountain bikers who took on the journey from Pretoria to Tzaneen in the DebtSafe Ride for Imke fundraiser, was left speechless upon receiving the news. “I also have a little girl, and I know that as a parent there is nothing you won’t do for your child. Riding for Imke was a privilege, but having been part of an actual miracle … few words can express how I feel right now.”
A US benefactor, who has also offered to pay for the family’s accommodation during their five-month stay in New York, will pay the remainder of the full treatment amount. During this time, Imke will receive five cycles of immunotherapy treatment (one per month), the first of which is expected to start on September 20.
The Geldenhuys family is still in complete awe of all the support they’ve received from so many kind strangers. Above all they are incredibly thankful to each and every individual who has been supporting Imke: children donating their pocket money, large corporations writing large cheques, well-wishers asking to remain anonymous, celebrities donating their time and earnings of concerts, the media sharing her story with so much compassion … the list goes on, as does the family’s thankfulness.
As South Africans, we’ve just got one thing to say: Godspeed, little Imke! We’re behind you in prayer and thoughts all the way. We’ve seen the impossible become possible, and now know that one day soon you will ring that bell in the cancer ward: cancer free and a living testimony to a modern day, heaven-sent miracle.
– Caxton News Service