WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS IMAGES THAT MAY DISTURB SENSITIVE READERS.
Fifteen-year-old Duan Stroebel’s move to Barberton six months ago, after a six-year stay in Lydenburg, was meant to be a smooth transition for the teen. On the family’s arrival in the town, Duan was your run-of-the-mill teenager with a keen interest in sport, who enjoyed the things most teenagers do.
That is until he contracted cystic acne which left his face pitted and scarred. His mother, Natasha, was at her wits’ end and spoke to Lowvelder about how the condition took a heavy toll on the normally carefree teenager.
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“He became very emotional and suffered from extreme depression. It basically destroyed his life,” she said.
Life became impossible for Duan, who had to contend with stares and questions about his skin as well as fitting into a new environment.
“A lot of my friends were sympathetic, so that made the stares easier to bear,” he said.
A teacher at Barberton High School, Coruis Grobelaar, saw Duan’s plight and asked Natasha if anything could be done to ease his condition. According to Natasha, Duan had a relatively smooth skin before the move which led her to question whether the different environment may be to blame.
“He was an upbeat boy with smooth skin, and his condition deteriorated to the extent that he looked like a burn victim,” she told Lowvelder.
After trying numerous courses of antibiotics and facial scrubs, a chance encounter with a stranger at i’Langa Mall led to a recommendation to consult dermatologist Dr Edward Berry at the Busamed Lowveld Private Hospital.
According to a family friend, Barbie Eksteen: “The stranger was like a guardian angel sent to protect Duan when he was at his lowest point.”
Along with other businesses, Berry offered to assist the family on a pro bono basis, which inspired others to do the same.
“It is simply amazing how everyone banded together to help this family, who were on the verge of giving up,” she said.
The young teen had started entertaining thoughts of committing suicide and eventually stopped venturing outdoors, preferring to spend his time away from public scrutiny.
“Before I did not want to be seen outside and I refused to participate in any sports. People averted my gaze and many did not want to touch me, as the pimples would pop and leak pus.”
His mother added that this presented serious problems, especially when going for a haircut. “It was a very rough period during our stay here. Thankfully everyone has come on board to help us.”
Duan has a long journey ahead of him and has vowed to become the voice of teenagers who may be experiencing a similar problem.
“My self-confidence has taken a severe blow and I want to be a voice of encouragement and motivation to other teenagers through a blog I will be starting soon.”
Though a long way from full recovery and with plastic surgery lying ahead, Duan managed a smile in a show of hope and optimism for the future.