7 operations, 53 days in hospital but Driehoek High School tragedy survivor hasn't given up hope

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Cheverné Duvenage is recovering after undergoing surgery for more than six-hours at Netcare Union Hospital (Photo: Supplied)
Cheverné Duvenage is recovering after undergoing surgery for more than six-hours at Netcare Union Hospital (Photo: Supplied)

The scars on her body will always remind Cheverné Duvenage of the tragedy that happened at her school in 2019. But after undergoing her seventh op – a marathon six-hour stomach procedure – the teen is looking forward to getting on with her life. 

Cheverné was left seriously injured after a walkway collapsed at Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijlpark early last year. She was pinned down by debris during the incident which left four learners dead and more than 20 seriously injured.

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Since that harrowing day, the 15-year-old Grade 9 learner has spent more than 50 days in hospital and undergone seven ops. But she’s hoping a six-hour surgery that she underwent last week at Netcare Union Hospital in Alberton to reconstruct her stomach wall will be her last.

“She was afraid and cried a fair bit before the op, but it all went well,” Cheverné’s mom, Nicola, told YOU on the day that the teen was due to return home after a five-night stay at the hospital.

Since the accident, she’s spent a total of 53 days at the hospital, undergoing procedures to her pelvis, hips and stomach wall.

But she’s hoping her latest op will be the last major surgery she’ll be needing.

 (Photo: Papi Morake)
This is where the concrete broke down. Steel pillars were then used to support the bridge (Photo: Papi Morake)
(Photo: Papi Morake)
For Hein Knoetze, former principal of Hoërskool Driehoek it is still inconceivable that four young lives were claimed at this scene on the school grounds where where a footbridge collapsed (Photo: Papi Morake)
(Photo: Papi Morake)
Mourners express their condolences at the gate of the Triangle High School after the accident (Photo: Papi Morake)
(Photo: Papi Morake)
A concrete bridge collapsed on 1 February at Hoërskool Driehoek in Vanderbijlpark and four pupils tragically lost their lives (Photo: Papi Morake)

“She felt she couldn’t continue with her life or get closure until she’d had the op,” her mom says.

Nicola explains that over the past 21 months Cheverné has endured much discomfort because of her stomach, which protruded a lot because of the injuries she suffered, but had a lengthy wait for the surgery.

She was due to have the op in March but it got postponed because of the Covid-19 epidemic.

“There are some normal teenage things she hasn’t been able to do yet, like going to Gold Reef City. With some of the trips the seatbelt would’ve been too tight around her stomach. She also always had to dress in oversized T-shirts to try to hide her tummy,” Nicola adds.

But to fix the problem she had to be willing to undergo another complex surgery.

“Doctors had to create a new synthetic stomach wall for her from mesh. Over time new blood vessels will form and penetrate it,” Nicola says. “Her recovery will take between four and six weeks and in the beginning she’ll have to wear a special belt, but she’s positive.”  

Nicola says she found Cheverné’s attitude to be the most remarkable thing about the past year and nine months.

“She’s just amazing. I’ve learnt so much from my child,” she says proudly.

Nicola says Cheverné is looking forward to resuming her boxing classes and being able to lead a normal lifestyle.

“This morning she told me she knows the battle scars will always be there as a reminder. They’ll never go away, but she feels she’s received another chance at life.”

(Photo: Facebook)
Cheverné is feeling hopeful about making a speedy recovery post-op (Photo: Facebook)

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