Ruben's Tukkie experience

Posted on October 28, 2016


Ruben Scharneck is a six-year-old boy from Pretoria who was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma cancer in 2014. His condition is terminal and he has a few dreams that he would like to realise before he gets too weak, one of which was to experience a day as a normal Tukkie student.

Ruben started complaining of stomach pains in 2014. Although it was initially thought that he had gallstones, doctors performed a biopsy and found a large tumour. Ruben was soon diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma and underwent 100 days of chemotherapy. Although the initial results seemed positive, the Scharnecks again faced bad news in June 2015, when it emerged that the cancer had spread. Ruben underwent alternative treatment and a major operation in January, but none of these measures yielded the results the family had hoped for. The doctors were unable to remove the tumours as they were attached to Ruben's aorta. At the end of June, doctors gave Ruben two months to live unless he underwent chemotherapy, which they said would extend his life expectancy by at least a few months.

Tineil Hurter, a friend of the Scharnecks, contacted Dr Pieter Clase, Senior Assistant Director: Recruitment at the University of Pretoria, and told him about Ruben's dream to experience a day as a normal Tukkie student. A programme was quickly compiled which included a campus tour and visits to Sci-Enza and the Virtual Reality Mine Design Centre at the University of Pretoria's Department of Mining Engineering. Unfortunately, Ruben experienced a lot of pain and wasn't physically able to make it to the campus on the day, but that did not stop Dr Clase and his team from doing all they could to fulfil Ruben's dream. The programme was adjusted slightly and on Tuesday, 25 October, the team visited Ruben at his home.

On arrival, they presented a very surprised Ruben with his very own Tukkie student card. He has a great love for science experiments, so staff from the UP Sci-Enza project shared a few experiments with him. Ruben's participation and clever answers during the experiments earned him a great deal of admiration and a JuniorTukkie Honorary Award. At the end of the programme, Dr Clase and Ruben's mom, Marinda, dressed Ruben in a graduation gown and cap to receive his Honorary Award in true Tukkie style. Another surprise awaited Ruben in the form of a gift that arrived with the complements of the management and staff of the Department of Enrolment and Student Administration.

Ruben thoroughly enjoyed the experiments:

The self-inflating balloon

Atmospheric pressure crushes a can

Putting out a candle by pouring carbon dioxide onto it

The competition for the strongest lungs: Why can't Mr Lombard blow up the balloon? There's a catch!

Ruben receives a Tuks student card, a special Tukkie award and a special gift:


More special moments:



- Author JuniorTukkie

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