I'M SO TIRED OF THE PAIN
YOU South Africa|13 January 2022
This nail technician is in emotional and physical agony as gangrene slowly claims her fingertips – and doctors can do nothing to help her
JANA VAN DER MERWE

NOTHING gave her more joy than sitting across from a client, manicuring their nails to perfection.

Nails were Melinda Jansen van Vuuren’s life and the ones at the tips of her own fingers were always buffed and polished.

But the former nail technician’s life has all but ground to a halt now. Bandages cover the hands that were once her pride and joy – and when she removes the coverings you see why.

The nails on the three middle fingers of her right hand look like scorched nutshells, the skin on her fingertips blackened as if they’ve been dipped in ink.

Gangrene has affected three fingers on her right hand and one on her left hand. Doctors say there’s nothing they can do – she simply has to wait for her fingertips to fall off.

“I’m a nervous wreck,” Melinda (48) says. “I don’t know what to expect when these things fall off. I’m not prepared for it.”

She sighs. “I’m very depressed. What am I going to do now? How am I going to work? I can’t do anything for myself. My self-confidence has been destroyed.”

Melinda has rheumatoid arthritis and vasculitis, a serious disease that causes blood vessel walls to thicken and narrow.

Her mother, Charmaine, had it too and died five years ago, aged 60.

A year ago Melinda’s husband left her and she hasn’t found love again. “I’m on dating sites but I promise you, as soon as I raise the hand issue, the men don’t talk to me again.”

MELINDA, who qualified as a nail technician in 2007, lives with her dad, Piet (69), on his smallholding in Walkerville south of Johannesburg.

She wears the bandages to protect her hands, which are extremely vulnerable to changes in temperature. “As soon as there’s a wind or cold air or if it’s too hot, the pain is unbelievable. So I keep my hands covered. It also helps to prevent infection.

“I’m so tired of being in pain. I can’t do anything for myself – I can’t even bathe myself or wash my hair. My best friend has to come over to help me. My dad cooks for us. He’s a pensioner and has to do everything for me,” she says.

“I can’t play with or pet my two dogs either. And they’re pitbulls – they’re big boys.”

Melinda says her world started unravelling when her mom died.

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