Zandre has passion for medicine, after 22 operations


Zandre Smith certainly hasn’t had an easy life so far. He was diagnosed with hemophilia at a very young age, a genetic blood disease that causes him to bleed unexpectedly and excessively. In his short life, he has already had to undergo 22 operations and, on top of that, has to live with excruciating pain on a daily basis, for which he is not allowed to use any painkillers. This is because the pain medication will further thin his blood.

However, this did not stop Zandre from achieving eight distinctions in the independent matric examination. He worked hard because he wants to study medicine. “The long time I spent in a hospital as a child cultivated a passion for medicine in me,” says Zandre, who matriculated at Helpmekaar College in Johannesburg. He would like to specialize in paediatrics because he knows how bad it is for a child to be seriously ill.

His school career was marked by challenges.

“Because of the disease, I will start to bloom spontaneously. The blood stays behind in my joints, eating away at the cartilage in the joints. This caused me to develop arthritis, which causes excruciating and chronic pain.” Due to the pain, he could not walk for months in the past and had to use a wheelchair in primary school.

“Teachers had to carry me between classes when the class was located on an upper floor. It was very difficult for me to make friends. I was made fun of and felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere.”

Because of the pain in his joints, it is also difficult for him to write and someone had to complete his answer sets during the matric examination on his behalf. Previously, he typed out the answers on a Word document. However, during the record exam, his fingers began to bleed from the heavy typing, and he was unable to complete many of the papers. Nevertheless, he still achieved seven distinctions in this examination.

“It was a challenge to use a writer in the final exam for the first time,” says Zandre. “You are placing your entire future and dreams in someone else’s hands.”

Zandre has already been selected to study BSc at the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of Stellenbosch and the University of Cape Town. His first choice is Stellenbosch, where he will hopefully be able to switch to an MBBCh degree more easily.