When Stellenbosch University (SU) graduate, Karabo Makhanya
was diagnosed with a life-changing medical condition in 2017, he decided that
no matter what happened he would carry on and complete his studies.
On Wednesday 16 December 2020, along with over 400 fellow graduates
from the Faculty of Science, Makhanya will achieve his dream and graduate virtually
with a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Sport Science degree.
“I felt that if I stopped so close to the finish line which was
finishing my undergrad, then all the challenges I faced and overcame throughout
my time at university would have been for nothing. I’ve learned to not see your
challenges as a disadvantage but to see them as one of your greatest advantages,”
While studying at SU, Makhanya was diagnosed with a
congenital disorder called Chiari malformation type 1, which involves a part of
his brain called the cerebellar tonsils pushing down into the hole that usually
allows the spinal cord to move into the skull. This caused a situation where
pressure was increasing in his brain and the fluid that should be flowing
around the spinal cord and the brain was not flowing, as it should.
Makhanya says that throughout his teens he always suffered
severe headaches that went away after several hours and come back months later.
However, in 2017, after numerous doctors’ visits and tests, Makhanya underwent
an MRI scan, which revealed the severity of his medical condition.
Due to the complications of Chiari malformation Type 1,
which causes syringomyelia, a rare disorder in which a fluid-filled cyst forms
within your spinal cord, Makhanya had to undergo one major neurosurgery in 2017
specifically for the Chiari malformation type 1 and another major neurosurgery
this year for the syringomyelia.
“With my faith in God, the support I received from my mom,
my family (immediate family and my church family), my friends and my lecturers
in the sports science department and the rest of the faculty, I can safely say
that I am now a BSc Sport Science graduate. Physically and mentally, I am
feeling good. I went back for another MRI scan a month or so ago and we found
that 99% of all the syrinxes are gone,” says Makhanya.
He also believes that by staying optimistic and surrounding
himself with the right people over the years helped him to overcome his health
challenges and ultimately achieve his graduation goals.
The Mpumalanga native says he is excited about the future
and hopes to one-day work as a strength and conditioning coach at a
professional soccer club in South Africa.
“I’ve always loved sports, especially soccer, and I loved
learning about the human body. As I went through my degree studies and the
challenges that I had to face, I became more and more interested in the human
mind and I have become more passionate about working with people. To do
something that involves sports, that involves learning about the human body and
that involves working with people is definitely a no-brainer for me,” says