Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Endocrinology clinic of Mulago Hospital has successfully operated an 11-year-old child to help her achieve her dream of living as a boy.
The child was born a girl and raised as one. But according to her parents, her organs started changing as she grew older. What was thought to be a clitoris turned into a penis, a condition which, according to medics was caused by the presence of high levels of male (testosterone) hormones in her body.
Then known as Catherine, the child was linked to care, starting a journey that will now see her live as a boy, for the rest of his life. Upon a successful sex assignment and corrective surgery, Catherine will now be known as Emma.
Dr Theresa Piloya, a pediatric endocrinologist who runs the clinic says that 10 per cent of the cases she handles are of children battling disorders of sex development who have been raised in different sex from theirs.
She said even as there’s no clear data on the incidence because of stigma and other reasons, the treatment centre is currently seeing 39 individuals with such disorders and 28 per cent of them are adolescents.
Dr Piloya said they have since 2012 has been collecting data of those who report to Mulago Hospital with such disorders but have found that other than reporting at birth or when still little children, many reports for treatment at adolescence or adulthood when it’s more challenging to treat.
She, however, noted that challenges don’t stop at identifying those that require correction procedures but also finding them psychologists to help them in the transition is still a problem. For her, appropriate procedures require them to do psychosocial counselling before surgery but most of the time it’s not done.
While this is not happening, she says what is currently doable is to train obstetricians and paediatricians to identify such cases early and they are linked to care before it’s too late and very expensive.
She notes that if these disorders of sex development are identified early and corrected, one will be able to function normally but it gets challenging as one is transitioning to adulthood because fertility can be compromised.