JT Wolmarans story

6 July 2020


Dear Dr Schewitz,

I want to thank you for choosing me as one of your patients for last year’s Pectus workshop at the Waterfall hospital.  I would like to share my journey with you as a way of thanking your for changing my life.

I first noticed there was something wrong with my chest when I was around ten years old.  The dent in my chest just kept getting worse to the point where I was too embarrassed to ever take my shirt off.  I could never swim and changing clothes for gym class at school was a nightmare.  I was teased all my life for being tall and skinny and having a deformed chest just made things so much worse.

I can’t say that I was ever in pain, but I was often short of breath and would feel light headed after physical activity.

My mom took me to see a Paediatric Rheumatologist in April 2018.  I had full body x-rays and measurements done and the Doctor diagnosed me as being Marfanoid and told me that I had no reason to worry about my chest – that it would not affect my health and that I would just need to learn to live with it.  I was devastated.  I knew that he wrong, because I had trouble breathing at times (usually after exercise and when I got nervous) and my heart would race for no apparent reason.

Our family got really excited after doing some searches on Google and discovering that this unnamed beast had a name – Pectus Excavatum – that there is surgical intervention and that the top authority in our country was literally around the corner!  I was so happy to meet with you in January 2019, but the cost of the surgery and finding out that there is a possibility the medical aid would not cover the cost if I was not deemed a serious enough case, was a huge disappointment.  By that stage we had started following PE Facebook support groups, and realised that more often than not the physical symptoms related to this condition, tend to get worse with age.  I was absolutely desperate to have the surgery and was beyond happy when you chose me as one of the candidates for your training symposium.

My surgery happened a month before my 17th birthday.  Post-op recovery was hard.  The pain was excruciating at times.  I find that even a year later, I am very aware of how I move.  Whilst I am not in pain, I would say there is a certain level of discomfort at times (cold weather and sneezes do not pair well!).

Though my chest looks 100% better than it did pre-op, I don’t think it looks quite normal yet.  I am exercising and trying to build some muscle though, which as it turns out takes a lot longer than I had hoped!  Being Marfanoid doesn’t help because I am really struggling to put on weight.  I am hopeful though that by the time my bar is removed, it will have done its job and I will have a normal looking chest.  In the meantime, though… I CAN BREATHE and my heart doesn’t race anymore! 

Thank you, Dr Schewitz, for choosing me and changing my life for the better.  I am eternally grateful to you for making this happen.

With gratitude,


JT Wolmarans

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