Surgeon fights tears

2017-09-14 13:45
Emotional scenes as inquest hears of child’s injuries after dog attack.

Emotional scenes as inquest hears of child’s injuries after dog attack. (File)

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A plastic and reconstructive surgeon could not hide her emotions in court here on Wednesday when describing dog bite injuries suffered by eight-year-old special needs boy James Sinkins in 2015.

The boy died a day after the attack.

Dr Bronwen Schoenfeld, who qualified in 1997 and has been practising in Howick since 2006, reported on her findings when she had seen James in the emergency room at Howick’s MediClinic.

Photographs she took in the operating theatre of the wounds James suffered were on Wednesday handed to the presiding magistrate, Dieter Schultz.

As Schoenfeld gave evidence, at times visibly fighting back tears, James’ mother and father, Estelle and Graydon, comforted one another in the public gallery.

The court has heard that James died at St Anne’s Hospital a day after he had been attacked, allegedly by a neighbours’ two dogs on December 10, 2015.

The court hearing is a formal inquest to determine if anyone should be held accountable.

Schoenfeld read out a report of her medical findings into the record and was in the witness box for less than 30 minutes.

The owners of the dogs allegedly responsible for the attack, Shanaaz and Aslam Alladin, sat together, apart from the Sinkins couple and their supporters in the public gallery, listening to the testimony. They had no questions for Schoenfeld. At times the surgeon’s voice cracked and she seemed to swallow hard to stop herself from crying.

Schultz stopped Schoenfeld at one point and offered her time to compose herself. He told her that her emotions were “human” and that she could ask to stand down if she needed to.

Schoenfeld said she did feel emotional but was able to carry on.

“On [December 10, 2015] I was called to Howick MediClinic emergency room to attend to James Sinkins, who had allegedly sustained severe dog bite injuries. On arrival in the emergency room I found an eight-year-old male who appeared anxious and distressed. He had numerous congenital abnormalities and his mother informed me that he had an undiagnosed syndrome ... and that he was unable to speak,” Schoenfeld said in her report.

She was told the boy had undergone multiple previous operations in respect of the abnormalities.

Schoenfeld said an examination of James’ head and neck revealed “numerous contusions and superficial lacerations and puncture wounds”.

“His trunk had extensive contusions all over with numerous puncture wounds. His left groin had a very deep laceration with exposure of vital structures. The posterior left thigh also had a very deep laceration,” she said.

Schoenfeld said James, who was stable at the time, was taken to theatre and underwent surgery under general anaesthetic.

“All puncture wounds on his head, neck and chest were debrided [cleaned] and sutured. Exploration of his left groin wound revealed damage to the femoral artery,” she said.

Schoenfeld said a vein graft from the left groin was used to repair the left femoral artery, a major artery.

She said the following day James had been “restless but sedated”, was pale and his “peripheries were cold”. He was transferred to the intensive care unit at St Anne’s.

“In the afternoon James suffered a cardiac arrest and was unresponsive to any attempt at resuscitation by Dr Laing and Dr van Niekerk,” she said.

The inquest will resume on Tuesday, September 19.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  dog attacks

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