Stan and Daphne Nkosi Foundation

Nicky Denton


Nicky Denton


Just as with the late Zakithi Nkosi, “There was a lot of trauma in my journey, and a lot of incorrect diagnosis in the beginning, with it, a lot of survivor guilt,” explained Nicky. “I was diagnosed in March of 2017. I first got sick on the ninth of January, with the common flu symptoms. The difference was that I had a runny nose, swollen lymph nodes, a sore throat and my body was in a lot of pain to the point where I struggled to move around”. For Nicky, the journey to discovering what exactly was making her sick was a painful one. It was a journey of a lot of traveling to different medical professionals, to determine what exactly was wrong with her. “I went to the doctor about three times and they gave me antibiotics. Eventually, I was admitted at Lenmed Hospital on the 13th of January. At first they suspected that it was my gall bladder, but then the surgeon assigned to me determined that it wasn’t. They called another physician to assess and diagnose me”.

Nicky says the process was tiresome, more so when physicians and other medical professionals began to come to realise that something worse was at play. “The doctors ran a number of tests that attributed to having meningitis or flu, but not attributing to TB or HLH at the time. While admitted, I began to lose total control of my body. I couldn’t walk around nor take myself to the bathroom. I was in excruciating pain and it was very traumatic,” continued Nicky. What hurt the most, was to hear the nurses at the hospital make accusations of me faking the ordeal, and that it was nothing more than a common flu. “Eventually the doctors gave up and didn’t see me for three days. They left me in the hospital bed, and it was a struggle to do certain things – it was horrible.” She recalls this with much emotion. However, just when hope was beginning to wane for her, something changed. “A night before I was supposed to be moved to Waterfall, when I had the worst chest pains. Nicky says she began to panic, realizing that all of this excruciating pain was her body preparing to shut down, her time to die so to speak. “In those moments I felt very calm. I was at peace. I didn’t want to suffer anymore. In that moment, I had an epiphany and my body just kicked itself into overdrive. “I was not ready to die yet,” she says. They managed to calm me down, and my mother and husband arrived to the hospital, angry that they weren’t notified of my state which had deteriorated over night”. Looking at the state of her daughter, Nicky’s mother says she made arrangements for her immediate transfer.

“I got to Dr Rust at Waterfall, and he looked at me and said that I had to go into ICU immediately. He then looked at my mother and told her that, had they left me for another night I would have not made it to the next morning. I was immediately admitted to ICU for about three weeks, and a simple antibiotic called Cortisone made me feel a lot better.” Then a lot of tests were done and the results showed inconclusive diagnosis. Then Nicky was ,moved out of ICU to a general medical ward and she struggled with a high fever. After some time, I was discharged. While at home I was in excruciating pain. I’m very fortunate that I had made it. They then performed a bone marrow test and it brought some interesting findings. “Dr Rust and Dr Karodia (a haematologist at Waterfall) discovered that I was suffering from HLH. So I was admitted but placed in a private room. Then I had a jaundice attack but at least I had my bodily functions back,” she continued. “This disease has robbed me of precious time with my children and family that I will not get back.” Around the month of April, the HLH returned aggressively and Nicky was placed back on high dosages of antibiotics. She was taken off the antibiotics only in December 2018. However, things have been looking up for Nicky since her remission. “I’m now pill-free,” she says. “It was a long journey because it’s an everyday fight. It can come back at any moment.” HLH is hard to diagnose, and I am very lucky to be alive. I don’t wish this illness on anybody. It’s a terrible thing to have. Without God or those two doctors, I would not be here today”.