Wednesday, June 10, 2009

South African tragedy

The Band always knows when something is big to me coz I take a long time to talk about it. I generally like to process stuff first but this one is far from sufficiently processed so perhaps writing about it will be therapeutic.

I have a fantastic housekeeper, maid, char, whatever the politically correct term is. For the foreigners among you: having a "cleaning lady" once or twice a week is more or less the norm in SA. It provides employment and is seen as a positive thing.
Anyway, Mavis is fantastic and has worked for us for about 2 years now and we are pretty close as far as an employer/employee relationship goes.

2 and a half weeks ago her niece (a 2 year old girl named Lili) had to go to Stellenbosch Hospital (a small government hospital)to have a tooth removed. Mavis's sister (Lili's mom) was told there was some sort of complication and so Lili was transferred to Tygerberg Hospital - a big provincial government hospital. The doctors there looked into it and did scans and so on and it seems that after going in for tooth ache, Lili is now severely brain damaged. The doctors say she is blind, deaf, unable to talk or even swallow. She is basically catatonic. Days went by with no improvement and on that Saturday the doctors decided it was time to take her off life support. Her family was told she could die immediately, or in minutes or in hours. A week and a half later she is still alive.

This story is tormenting me. I didn't know Lili before - except for what Mavis had told me about her, but the utter injustice and waste of it keeps me up at night.

On Sunday I went to the hospital. I wanted to see what the story was for myself and also to pray for this child. The children's ward at a public South African hospital is a heart breaking place. I saw babies smaller than the one I am carrying lying in the open - no incubator or blanket. The nurses and doctors are lovely and clearly care about what they do, but the facilities are just no good.

Lili is a beautiful child, really gorgeous big brown eyes that are mostly vacant but every now and then they seem to focus which gives you hope. The doctors give no hope beyond a miracle. I will keep praying for that.

A friend of a friend is a paediatrician at the hospital and so she called him for me. He knew exactly which child she was talking about immediately and said "off the record" that it was gross negligence on the part of Stellenbosch Hospital - something to do with a lack of post-operation monitoring which resulted in oxygen starvation and then severe brain damage.

Guys how the hell is it possible that a kid has a toothache and comes out severely brain damaged??

Anyway, the sad reality in SA is that the poorer people are very accepting. The mom is not particularly angry, just sad and confused. I am attending a meeting at Stellenbosch Hospital tomorrow with Lili's mom at which they are discussing the case and tomorrow afternoon I will go with her to Legal Aid. The off-the-record doctor says that they should be able to either sue the hospital or the state for millions. I haven't said that to Mavis and her sister. I've just said that we need to make sure that this never happens to anyone else.

Guys I'm in this one for the long haul. It is not ok that because these guys are poor the hospital gets away with this. If this was a white kid in a private hospital it would be front page news! I'm in media relations and I'm not above taking this to the media if that's what it takes to get some sort of justice for this family.


po said...

Oh my god. I cannot believe the fate of a kid who goes in for a toothache and comes out brain damaged. That is tragic.

I have been reading about the introduction of the NHI with mixed feelings. I wonder if it will improve the current system or not for most people? I can see why poor people are excited about it but I hope it can keep its promises.

Anyway, it would be great if some kind of compensation could come out of this :(

Mrs. Holly Hall said...

I only briefly read what you wrote but i am a nurse so I have some idea what might have happened.

This is only a guess, but, from what you write-

the child had a toothache, she might have needed the tooth removed, so they did surgery to remove it. They most likely put her under general anesthesia to operate on her- aka to remove the tooth.

general anesthesia has MAJOR risks with anyone, surgery has major risks for anyone. THERE ARE MONSTER RISKS with a two year old child.

So, what i am guessing happened is that general anesthesia (aka basicaly shutting down the patient-there heart is still beating but they are usually on a respirator-making the lungs artifically work). Basically gen. anesthesia is an artificial coma. It is a very precarious situation.

Lots of monitoring, lots of care to do things correctly. Something went horribly wrong. What happened is well, either she was not monitored correctly, given too much medication to sedate her, or her oxygen levels while under where not monitored correctly. AND OR when she was in distress in the procedure, it was not responded to correctly.

And this very much sucks for everyone involved. The brain is a fragile thing. And right now it appears her brain is still fighting (heart still beating, still breathing). But the higher functioning, the recognition of faces, the reponse to voice, touch, talking, eating---- all of that is (from what you say) gone right now.

There is hope though. She is still two. The brain is still growing. Lot of therapy (physical therapy and other types) will be needed.

All of this can be greatly helped by an influx of cash for the family.


help them get the motherfuckers!

and please, take care of you in this process. talk to the band. write about it. cry and rub your belly alot. This type of thing, this tradegy is hard to be near. Don't stuff down the sad here.

thanks for writing this. you did an awesome job :)

Ches said...

Caz, drop Carte Blanch a line.

Shame man, poor kid, that's not cool.

Very good of you to be helping them but look after yourself, don't stress yourself and the baby out too much.

Joanne said...

We need more people like you, we are here to support you and listen and help where we can.

Caz said...

Thanks guys. I really appreciate the support and the perspective. This one is sad enough to swallow me alive in a way but a regular targeted kick in the bladder is a pretty good reminder of how good life is and how lucky i am.

Tamara said...

Hectic... That is truly awful. Yet it doesn't surprise me. Our state-run hospitals are vastly under-funded and under-equipped. And the tragedy, as you noted, is that the poor people tend to have no option but to accept whatever happens to them. Good on you for taking up the cause. I'll be praying for Lili too.