Patient donates metal rod to doctors who removed it from his body

2015-08-14 17:37
A part of Daniel de Wet’s gift to Professor Kenneth Boffard and Netcare Milpark Hospital in Cape Town. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

A part of Daniel de Wet’s gift to Professor Kenneth Boffard and Netcare Milpark Hospital in Cape Town. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Johannesburg - Seven months ago engineering supervisor Daniel de Wet was impaled by a 1.8 metre long metal rod called a "gwala". Now that gwala stands in the reception area at Netcare Milpark Hospital as a reminder miracles do happen.

On Friday, De Wet - who miraculously survived the ordeal - presented it as a gift to the hospital team who saved his life. A plaque with the words "This is once again proof that we serve a living God" was also handed over to the hospital's trauma director Professor Kenneth Boffard.

Seven months ago, Boffard received a call of an incoming patient who had been impaled after falling on to the steel rod. De Wet said he wanted to present Boffard with the rod as a symbol of his heartfelt appreciation. 

"It is to show mine and [wife] Liezl's gratitude towards Milpark Hospital, Prof Boffard and his whole team," said De Wet.

"It is to say thank you to them for saving my life and giving... my life back to my wife and children."

On January 10, De Wet was working in one of the Carltonville mine's shafts 3.5km underground, unblocking a mud-clogged drain.

'My foot slipped and the gwala penetrated me'

He was using the gwala to move the mud. The needle-shaped metal instrument is about 2.5cm in diameter. It is sharp on one end and blunt on the other.

He fell on to the gwala, which was standing upright, while attempting to reach a pipe on a higher level.

As he stepped on a muddy level to elevate himself, De Wet's foot slipped.

"My foot slipped and the gwala penetrated me. It went through the front of my thigh, through my intestines, through my stomach, through my left kidney, the bottom half of my lung and made a hole where it came out just above my left shoulder blade."

De Wet was in hospital for 19 days and underwent two operations.

On June 1, Boffard gave De Wet the go-ahead to return underground.

"Every time we get someone home, it's a special occasion. Mr De Wet's injuries were pretty terrifying and pretty terrible and we got him home," Boffard said.

"This [occasion] is him saying thank you to the system. South Africa is full of systems which are collapsing, but here the system worked exactly as it should have."

'It's very nice to see a positive outcome'

Netcare911 helicopter services member FG Kloppers remembers the day he received the call to attend to a patient at a Carletonville mine as though it was yesterday.

"We got the phone call asking us to measure the size of the helicopter because we were asked to collect an impalement patient and they needed to know if he was actually going to fit into the helicopter.

"The decision was made we would go without knowing whether they'd actually be able to fit him into the helicopter."

Although Kloppers and his team were given details about the state the patient was in, he was not ready for what he saw when he landed.

"I don't think anything could have properly prepared us for what we found. The only thought going through my mind was 'This is a first'."

Parts of the helicopter had to be dismantled to make space for De Wet and ensure nothing would touch or move the gwala.

"For him to fit into the helicopter, we actually had to loosen, release and remove some panels from the inside... to make more space in the chopper. It was fairly quick, about 15 minutes."

Kloppers said it was encouraging to see a patient survive such an ordeal.

"It's very nice to see a positive outcome with the amount of ill and critically injured patients we see on a daily basis. It's very nice to get such positive feedback.

"To see someone walking around who benefitted from not only us, but [from] an entire trauma system."

'It's been a rollercoaster ride for all of us'

De Wet's wife Liezl still gets teary-eyed when she thinks about the day she almost lost her husband.

"It was two days before school started, so I actually went to get the last stuff for the kids for school. Then the call came in and Deon [one of De Wet's colleagues and a close family friend] asked, 'Did the mine phone you? Danie fell through a gwala'.

"He cried so much he couldn't speak to me anymore. He was very emotional. And I just asked him, 'Deon is Danie dead?' and he said 'No but it's very, very serious. You need to get to the mine'."

While holding back tears, Liezl said she was not allowed to go underground to see her husband. Once he was brought to the surface, she was given a few seconds to speak to him before he was flown to the hospital.

"By the time [Daniel] got to the helipad, they said, 'Mrs De Wet you can see him for two seconds before we get him into the air'. He was still speaking at that point, he was just [saying to] us, 'Tell the paramedics to put me on my back', giving me instructions," she said, laughing that he was still telling her what to do.

"It's been a rollercoaster ride for all of us, for our whole community because Danie is very loved.

"It's like the end of the chapter today. Yes, you do feel sad, but it could have been worse. Today's tears are tears of joy."

Family humbled by experience

Before De Wet's decision to donate the gwala to Boffard and the hospital, it was sitting in their living room.

She laughed when she described how nervous she was about their energetic five-year-old being so close to it.

"I've got a five-year-old and you know they're busy. So he has been jumping all over [the house], so I told Prof he might just [have to] take it out of another De Wet... because he might just jump through it [as well]."

The experience has humbled the family. Although life has gone back to normal, Daniel gives testimonials and motivational speeches at various churches to uplift others.

"In January, I asked God what was the purpose of this?" Liezl De Wet said.

"We live such a hectic lifestyle these days, there is no time for anything. You jump from this to that. God took our family... and he told us, 'Look around you people, miracles do happen'."

Boffard placed the gwala in the reception area of the hospital's trauma department, where it would "not only be seen, but also appreciated", he said.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  good news  |  health

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