Haemophilia Patient Story

Haemophilia patient story - by Riaan Opperman

I was always told that I would be limited in my capabilities, especially those of a physical nature in what I would like to achieve. I was also told my quality of life would be seriously affected, which for a time was very hard to come to terms with.  


Haemophiliacs, who lack certain clotting factors, causing their bleeding not to stop unlike the normal person, are always told to err on the side of caution and prevention, as any injury or even spontaneous bleeding, can cause problems and limitations, even death if not intervened. There are some of us however who are stubborn, continuously challenge current narratives and take risks. These risks came with its own reward.


I am an Emergency Care Practitioner (Paramedic), currently completing my Master’s in Emergency Medical Care. I am also a Lecturer at the Department of Health, and an Associate lecturer at university. In the last 20 years in the Pre-hospital Emergency Care field, I responded to and managed countless high risk and critical care emergencies. I’ve travelled to every continent, performing Advanced Life Support interventions, and experienced life changing cultures. My current objective is to professionalize and improve Pre-Hospital education and have sufficient Paramedics to serve our impoverished communities.


As much as I have achieved through hard work and persistence, many of these challenges alleviated came with the help of the Haemophiliac Foundation, for had they not intervened, my story might have turned out different.


In 2003 when I initially applied at the University for the Paramedic Program, I was obviously declined due to my haemophiliac status (high intensity physical training and endurance). This was understandable, as any injury would cause me to demise unless intervened with appropriate medicines (Factor 8 in our case). The Haemophiliac foundation came to my aid with a letter stating I am capable of safely completing the program, which granted me access.  


In 2004 I ran into serious financial problems, unable to complete my studies.  Just as I was about to leave the program, I received a call from the Haemophiliac Foundation. They funded my entire year of studies and purchased all the textbooks and equipment required to complete my studies.


In 2005 I had a serious accident, requiring facial surgery. Sister Anne was on the phone as usual, advising surgical teams on the necessary interventions haemophiliacs needs prior to surgery. I cannot tell you how many nights Sister Anne intervened after hours to assist haemophiliacs in need.


In 2006 I graduated. The first of my generation who went to university. I spent the next few years working on improving my skillset, giving back to the community.


In 2008 I boarded an aircraft for the first time, flying to Sudan to assist with medical care in remote areas. I was blocked initially from traveling, as I had my medicines (Factor 8) on my carry-on luggage. Security would not understand why I would carry these with me everywhere I go. Again, the Haemophiliac Foundation came to the rescue, providing a letter of my unique situation, allowing me to travel wherever I want. Do understand how risky this is, for there might be no Factor 8 available in whichever country I am working in, especially the ones I operated in! From there onwards, I travelled across the world, providing emergency care in some of the most remote areas in the world.


This is just few of the many interventions provided by the Haemophilia foundation, I can go on about numerous other occasions, but I am not writing a biography (just yet). I was allowed to not only life a ‘normal’ life but pushed beyond known barriers. I’m married to an amazing wife who gifted me with two beautiful healthy boys. To say I am blessed is an understatement.


I know I have not done enough for the Haemophilia Foundation to show my gratitude and always intervening when needed, but I hope that some day I can do enough, and even pay it forward.

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