Children of fire survive the scald

2009-12-01 00:00

SOME people find it difficult to live with serious burn marks or deformities after accidents, failing to understand that everything happens for a reason. These are the brave words of Londeka Ngidi, a 17-year-old M.L. Sultan Grade 11 pupil from Imbali township, who survived after falling into a huge pot full of boiling water.

She was only two at the time of the accident and her mother, Ntombifuthi Ngidi, had left her with relatives while she focused on her radiography studies at the then Natal Technikon. The mother narrated the unfolding of events with tears in her eyes.

It was a cold day in 1994 and Londeka was playing on the bed. A double burner stove was on the floor with a huge pot of water meant to wash the nappies. The baby started to jump on the bed trying to reach a wall picture of Nelson Mandela. The water was already boiling at the time.

“The explanation I received was that, while jumping, the child fell from the bed, head-on into the pot. When I saw her after she was discharged from hospital I just didn’t know what to do. It killed me inside seeing my only child having to go through such a terrible experience,” Ngidi said. The child’s eyes were spared from the boiling water. It is not clear who was with the child at the time of the accident.

“For some time, people looked strangely at my baby and sometimes I had to deal with criticism that I’m a bad mother who did not care for her child. The very people accusing me of negligence, like me, were not there when it happened.”

Ngidi had to go home every weekend to care for her child, until she comple­ted her studies. Londeka started going to school and completed her primary school education wearing a beanie. Half of her hairline, part of her face, and the upper part of her right arm were badly burnt. Her primary school teacher then introduced her mother to a woman who had information about the Children of Fire, Africa’s first burns charity based in Johannesburg. Contacts were made and the process of operating on Londeka began, although it was a slow one.

She was in Grade 8 when she went for her first tissue expander operation at Johannesburg’s Sunninghill Hospital.

The operation site became infected and she went back to the hospital for a second operation, and spent six months in hospital.

“Arrangements were made for me to continue studying during those six months and at the end of the year I wrote my examinations here at school. Those were difficult times but, through the power of God, I made it through,” Londeka said.

“My hair is growing again, I’m happy with who I am and most of all, I have the most wonderful mother in the world.”

Children of Fire International volunteer Ellen Phillips said Londeka is a very brave young girl, full of life. “She was brave throughout the process of putting the tissue expander under the skin of her head as it was stretched.

“For patients like her we source reconstructive surgery and provide long- term rehabilitation for them. We have helped more than 300 children since opening our doors in 1998.”

Contact Children of Fire by e-mailing firechildren@icon.co.za or phone 011 726 6529 or 082 735 3783.

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