Why the agreements for child victims are necessary

2017-09-17 05:58
Cynthia Magwayi and Chumani, then eight years old and helpless. Picture: Elizabeth Sejake

Cynthia Magwayi and Chumani, then eight years old and helpless. Picture: Elizabeth Sejake

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Occupational therapist Anneke Greeff is the case manager for 40 settlement agreements for child victims of medical negligence.

One of her clients is Chumani Magwayi, whose mum, Cynthia, was interviewed for a City Press investigation in 2013.

Magwayi was 22 years old when she gave birth to Chumani and was so traumatised by the experience that she has not had any more children.

Her partner left her because of Chumani’s disability, and her then mother-in-law accused her of giving birth to a snake.

But things have taken a turn for the better – these days, Magwayi is incredulous at how much her 12-year-old son’s life has improved since the court ruled in 2013 that he receive a R13.9m payout.

“His birth was very bad. The nurses hit me and I was in labour for three days. When he was eventually born, his head was badly swollen and he didn’t even make a sound,” she said.

“He used to be able to do nothing for himself. When I was in a taxi one day, somebody told me about [medical malpractice lawyer] Olof Joubert. I went to see him and he helped us.

“This is now Chumani’s house. He is the man here and we are all very happy. My mother will also soon move here. He loves his granny very much.”

Greeff was appointed by Absa to manage Chumani’s settlement.

In cases such as his, she sits down with the parents, child and other experts, and conducts a needs assessment to establish how much the family should receive each month.

“We bought the Magwayis a new house equipped for someone with Chumani’s needs. Before then, they lived in a shack.

"We bought him an electric wheelchair and a car that he could be transported in. In addition, he is at a school close to his house where he receives very good therapy. We are pleased with his development,” Greeff said.

Further tests showed that Chumani was a good candidate for augmentative and alternative communication, a term describing all forms of communication – other than speech – used to express one’s thoughts.

It is used to help people with language impairments.

In Chumani’s case, computer software was introduced to teach him to speak.

“Chumani can now tell his mother when he is hungry by, for example, blinking his eyes. Or, he can show that he is thirsty or that he would rather drink coffee instead of water,” said Greeff.

“These children also need to wear nappies. But we are now in the process of teaching Chumani to indicate when he wants to use the toilet, and it is going very well.

“I work together with his therapists at school, his carer and his mother to teach him.

"In all these cases, it is not just about the children, but also about lifting the burden of care so parents can spend time with their other children or go to work.

"And it gives the family a chance to enjoy their lives and surroundings,” Greeff said.

Read more on:    youth  |  health

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