Team effort saves curious child's arm after mincer accident

2015-04-17 16:04
Tristan Cloete and his mother, Melanie Cloete. (Supplied)

Tristan Cloete and his mother, Melanie Cloete. (Supplied)

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Cape Town - An anaesthetist and her emergency services husband teamed up over the Easter weekend for a rather unusual operation and, in the process, gave a lucky little boy a real helping hand

Four-year-old Tristan Cloete was exploring the workings of an electronic mincer at his home in Atlantis, Cape Town on Easter Monday, when his hand became stuck in the machine.

Tristan’s shocked family immediately raced him, with his hand still stuck in the machine, to Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital.


“We were just praying and praying that he would not lose his hand,” his mother, Melanie Cloete said.

At the hospital’s emergency department, anaesthetist Dr Ledine du Preez realised that the removal of the mincing machine would require highly specialised skills.

And this is where Tristan’s luck started kicking in. Du Preez immediately got hold of her husband, Colin Deiner.

Deiner just happens to be chief director of disaster management and fire brigade services for the Western Cape.

He immediately mobilised members of the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service, the provincial Medical Emergency Transport and Rescue Organisation and an emergency doctor from the provincial health department, Dr Wayne Smith.

Deiner says: “They all came to Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital and we spoke to plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr Liezl du Toit, who was attending to Tristan. The little patient had to be anaesthetised and was taken into the operating theatre.”

Du Toit said that it was extremely fortuitous that the husband and wife, with their different skills, were on hand for this particularly complex case.

Plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr Liezl du Toit and anaesthetist Dr Ledine du Preez with Tristan Cloete. (Supplied)


She said that Tristan’s case was complicated by the fact that the solid bimetal machine stuck on his arm meant that X-rays could not show the extent of the damage.

“You know that the little boy is hurt, but have no idea how bad the injury is,” she said.

And this was where the team of emergency personnel stepped in. To enable the specialists to assess the extent of Tristan’s injury, they used reciprocating saws to carefully cut the machine off of his arm.

Cutting through metal causes heat, and so water had to be constantly sprayed on the site to avoid burning Tristan’s arm while the mincer was being cut away.

“After about two hours we were able to release his arm,” Deiner says.

Du Toit said that it was extremely unusual for emergency workers to be present in an operating theatre, but said they performed their work with great precision so as to prevent further injury to Tristan.

As soon as his little arm had been released, Du Toit and orthopaedic surgeon, Dr André Heyns, meticulously cleaned and carefully closed his wounds.

“None of us could have done the procedure alone, it was an absolute team effort,” Du Toit said, describing the emergency workers as “real heroes”.


Tristan was discharged on Friday, April 10, and is now recovering at home, but is apparently getting impatient to have his plaster cast removed.

“We are having a little bit of trouble trying to keep him still. He just wants to play, but the cast is still fully intact,” his mother said.

She extended her heartfelt thanks to all those who, without hesitation, jumped in to help her little boy.

“Tristan tells me, ‘My hand is going to be fine’. That’s how positive he is. As for the rest of the family, we are all just praying that he will have full use of his hand when he recovers,” she adds.

Read more on:    cape town  |  health  |  good news

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