‘Soldier’ Pippie cheated death

2012-07-14 14:59

Three-year-old Isabella “Pippie” Kruger will be remembered by many across the globe as the first South African to have a successful graft using cloned skin.

But to the people who nursed her back to health when all hope was lost, she will be remembered as a little soldier who refused to accept defeat despite devastating blows.

Pippie “died” several times while she was a patient in Garden City Clinic’s paediatric unit after suffering third-degree burns over 80% of her body in a freak accident at the start of the year.

With each resuscitation her medical team feared the worst – but she always came back to life.

Nellie Zikalala, one of the nurses who cared for Pippie from day one until she was discharged said: “At some point I thought God was going to take her. I remember it was the third resuscitation she had since her admission and I thought this was it.

“Pippie was gone, but she came back and from that day I knew she was a soldier. A soldier never gives up.”

Her colleague, Samson Hlabisa, agreed. He described Pippie as a little girl with a fighter’s spirit.

“I have never seen a child who had 80% burns and still lived to tell the tale in my entire career as a nurse.

Pippie is a very strong girl. She survived despite doctors saying she had a 10% survival chance,” Hlabisa said.

Pippie became part of the paediatric unit’s family because of the months she spent at the facility.

“When she was discharged on Wednesday last week, everybody was devastated,” said Zikalala.

Hospital staff were not the only people who were sad to see Pippie leave. Her mother, Anice Kruger, broke down.

She said: “It was tears of both joy and sadness. I was happy that my child was better and ready to start with rehabilitation, but at the same time sad that she was leaving the people who had nursed her to life and treated her like their own child.”

Kruger has become close friends with both Hlabisa and Zikalala.

Hlabisa said: “She calls me sometimes to ask what she should do with Pippie when she refuses to eat.

“I tell her that when feeding ­Pippie you need patience. You need to look at certain signs that tell you she does not like what you are feeding her or that she is full,” he said.

Both Zikalala and Hlabisa said Pippie would always hold a special place in their hearts, and they plan to visit her at Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital in Auckland Park where she will, over the next six months, be taught to walk and talk.

Her new skin was grown in a ­laboratory in the US and then flown to South Africa.

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