When Martinique du Preez who lives in Blouberg, was diagnosed with kidney failure at 13, it was the start of a long, agonising journey.
For the next five years, the teen endured dialysis, more than 20 operations and a failed kidney transplant.
But with the will to survive and his mother by his side, Matinique has defied all the odds and gone on to shatter several athletics records.
His mom, Shantol September, says learning of his condition in 2010 was the worst thing she’s ever faced.
“One day he just swelled up, and I thought he’d been stung by a bee. When he went to hospital, they ran tests and said he had high blood pressure and he was filled with water,” says Shantol.
Martinique was moved from the hospital in his hometown of Haarlem to George hospital. When doctors could not help him there, he was moved to Groote Schuur.
Excess water had to be drained manually… and very painfully from Martinique’s body.
“They made incisions all over my body and inserted needles to extract the water. They tried to numb the area, but there was so much fluid between my skin and muscles that it didn’t work,” he says.
When a biopsy revealed Martinique’s kidneys were failing, his mom wanted to save him right away.
“I wanted to give him one of my kidneys, but doctors warned me that his body might reject it.”
For the next three years, Martinique went through one long surgery after another. He also underwent dialysis, but after a while it stopped working.
“In 2014, I decided to give him a kidney because we had run out of options,” says Shantol. “Doctors did a compatibility test, and I gave him my best kidney.
“The operation was a success, but six hours later, his body rejected the kidney, and they had to go into emergency surgery.
“I was lying there still in pain from my surgery. I didn’t know what to do.”
Things were at an all time low, as Martinique went back on dialysis and his mom fell ill because her wounds turned septic.
“He blamed himself for everything that went wrong at the time,” says Shantol.
Martinique and his mom decided there would be no more surgeries because their “expectations were too high and their disappointments too huge”.
They would make the best of the time he had left living each day to its fullest.
Then, one Sunday in May 2014, the unexpected happened: doctors called Shantol to tell her they had a kidney for her son.
A boy the same age as Martinique had died, and his mother had agreed for his kidneys to be harvested.
Martinique was sceptical at first but then agreed to undergo surgery the next morning.
“Before I went in for the operation, I prayed that if it didn’t work, I wanted to die on the operating table.”
But the operation was a success, and Martinique is now called the “miracle boy” at hospital.
One month after he was discharged from hospital, Martinique was itching to start training for the South African National Transplant Games, an athletics event for those who have had organ transplants.
Shantol says the beauty of the games is that everyone gets a second chance.
Martinique started training with coach Taswell Adams, and his mom drove him from Blouberg to Atlantis every day for his training.
Five months later, he competed in the games and broke the South African transplant record for the 200m sprint.
“We had a bus full of his supporters at the stadium. Everyone was crying. Six months earlier, he was dying in hospital, and here he was breaking the South African transplant 200m sprint record,” says Shantol.
On the same day, Martinique also won gold medals for the 100m sprint and shot put.
Last year, he was part of the South African Transplant team that was capped by Premier Helen Zille, and he competed in his first World Transplant Games in Argentina.
Unfortunately, Martinique fell ill shortly after landing abroad and returned home empty handed. He says this only motivated him to train harder for the next competition.
Earlier this month, he once again competed in the national transplant games and broke a whopping five records in one day.
“The more I train, the more I feel I can compete against able bodies,” he says.
Martinique now has his eyes set on the next World Transplant Games in Spain next year, where he plans to break four world records.
Shantol hopes her son’s story inspires people to become organ donors.
“You are not gaining anything by taking your organs to the grave. Through that child that died and his mother that agreed to the transplant, that boy’s legacy lives on through my son.”