Pretoria teen in coma 155 days after wind swept him off back of bakkie

By Marelize Potgieter
03 November 2016

Richard's injuries were so severe that doctors had to remove part of the left side of his skull to make room for his swollen brain.

He was riding carefree in the back of a bakkie being driven by a friend.

But suddenly a strong wind came from nowhere and blew him off the vehicle.

On that day, 9 June, Richard van der Nest (then 15) from Pretoria fell so hard he broke an arm in two places and cracked his skull. His injuries were so severe doctors had to remove part of the left side of his skull to make room for his swollen brain.

Richard before the accident. PHOTO: Supplied Richard before the accident. PHOTO: Supplied

During the days after the tragedy he was declared braindead three times, but his family refused to have the life-support systems turned off, and he continued to fight for his life. “They called us to say goodbye to him. But God has his own time,” his heartbroken mother, Lee-Ann, says.

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Thursday 3 November was the 155th day Richard has been in a coma and doctors still can’t give his family any idea of when he'll come out of it. “They just say we should remain on our knees,” Lee-Ann says.

PHOTO: Supplied PHOTO: Supplied

In early August Richard was transferred to the Lynnmed hospital in Pretoria, where he’s now being cared for. “Sometimes it looks as if he wants to push himself up and sit up, and his eyes are open for a while,” Lee-Ann says. “It’s tough to see him like this.”

Meanwhile doctors have implanted the part of Richard’s skull that was removed under the skin of his abdomen to prevent the bone from dying. They hope to replace it in time.

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On 21 October the hospital staff decorated Richard’s room and celebrated his 16th birthday because he’d been looking forward to the milestone since the beginning of the year.

 PHOTO: Supplied PHOTO: Supplied

His sister Jo-Ann says he’d wanted a big party and to ride his motorcycle. Although his birthday wasn’t what he’d had in mind it was an opportunity for the family to be together. “Now we’ll have to wait until he comes out of the coma and reads his birthday cards.

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“Richard was a loving person and with his spontaneous personality he made friends easily. He always accepted everyone and always tried to help where he could. He could keep a secret, always wanted to keep the peace and used to stand by you through thick and thin.

“He was a busy boy and couldn’t sit still for two minutes. He was always active and loved outdoor pastimes such as fishing and motorcycle riding. He was only three years old the first time he rode on a motorcycle.

“He was fearless. We miss him incredibly. He must just wake from his coma.”

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