KZN mother blames herself after daughter’s accidental fall into hot water

2019-05-24 13:15
 (PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/GALLO IMAGES)

(PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES/GALLO IMAGES)

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Nonhlanhla Ngidi was preparing to bathe her two children, Boitumelo, 5 and Quintin, 2, when Boitumelo fell into a bath of hot water. 

Everything happened so fast.

One minute the children were playing and singing, and the next minute, Boitumelo was kicking and screaming in a pool of hot water.

The 29-year-old mother says she continues to live with immense guilt and blames herself for the incident.

TRAGIC SCHOOL HOLIDAYS 

The middle-class family lives in Mpophomeni, a small township in KwaZulu-Natal.

Nonhlanhla works as a teacher at a private school, while her partner works as a clerk at a local police station.

Nonhlanhla always looks forward to the school holidays, knowing that she can spend quality time with her children, able to do all the things she can’t do when she is working.

But this year’s school holidays took a tragic turn and has irrevocably changed the family's life.

Nonhlanhla’s little girl fell backwards into the bath of hot water. Nothing could have prepared the mother for the incident. She lost sight of the kids for a few seconds before she heard Boitumelo’s cry for help.

The young mother jumped to her daughter’s rescue, pulling her out of the scalding water before rushing her to a nearby hospital.

“Everything happened so fast. I just heard screams, and when I looked, Boitumelo was lying in the water I had prepared for their bath. I pulled her out and rushed her to the nearest hospital which is about 25 minutes from our home,” says the distraught mother, recalling the events that led to the incident.

THIRD DEGREE BURNS

When they got to the hospital, Ngidi was informed that Boitumelo sustained third degree burns.

She was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and spent two weeks on a life support system. After the family's medical aid was depleted, she was moved out of the ICU. Luckily by then she was over the worst. 

Boitumelo spent a few more days in a paediatric ward, and was discharged after spending 20 days in hospital. 

But the third degree burns has left Boitumelo with poor functional mobility.

“The incident has changed Boitumelo’s life. Normal everyday activities are a struggle. She can’t sit upright without back support, and she also struggles to move her neck. Her back and buttocks are all covered with full thickness burns. Sitting and sleeping makes her very restless,” says Ngidi.

THE FINANCIAL STRESS

Ngidi says she had to take unpaid leave to care of her child. She spends more time at home, but says she feels like her presence is not enough because Boitumelo’s condition isn’t getting any better. The healing process is very slow.

She has to change Boitumelo's dressing at least three times a week, and that’s not always possible as money is tight.

Boitumelo also needs pain medication every time Boitumelo has a dressing change. And they sometimes need to hire private transport because of the high infection risk that comes with using public transport.

“Every time we think she’s getting better, she gets another infection. I had to stay off work for a while. We need money more than ever but my daughter needs me even more,” she says.

The emotional and financial stress overwhelms Ngidi.

She says she wishes her mother was still alive.

But she has found great support from Boitumelo’s pre-school teacher and principal, Karen van Lelyveld.

The Heritage House principal is raising funds for Boitumelo’s occupational therapy sessions, and she also brings food for the family from time to time.

“Karen has been so supportive. She has been a pillar of strength for us. She started a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds for Boitumelo to get the therapy she needs to regain her neck and arm mobility,” says Ngidi.

It is hoped that the BackaBuddy crowdfunding campaign will ease the family’s financial stress.

The money generated by the campaign will be paid directly to Boitumelo's doctors.

THE FAMILY TRAUMA

Boitumelo will need to undergo surgery for skin grafts, attend occupational therapy sessions once or twice a week and get skin therapy products. She also needs a pressure garment to manage scarring.

Her family also needs psychological therapy.

Boitumelo’s condition has put the family under a lot of stress, and they are emotionally drained.

Boitumelo’s father was in a car accident due to the stress, says Ngidi.

 Two-year-old Quintin was in the car, and had to be rushed to hospital.

“The stress was too much for him, he crashed with Quintin in the car. The child spent a few days in the hospital after he sustained minor injuries. The car was in a very bad state,” says Ngidi.

Read more on:    durban  |  accidents
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