She became a household name after a freak accident left her with third-degree burns over 80% of her body. Pippie Kruger defied the odds and is nearly a teen although life remains a challenge for the brave young girl.
Now 12, Pippie was just a toddler when a bottle of fire-starter gel exploded at a New Year’s Eve family braai at the family’s then home in Lephalale, Limpopo, in 2011.
More than 60 operations followed, including groundbreaking skin grafts using cloned skin. Dr Ridwan Mia, the plastic surgeon who performed the life-changing grafts, became invested in Pippie’s development and recovery – and doctor and patient were reunited again recently.
Pippie needed another procedure, mom Anicè Kruger tells us, to help the skin be more flexible.
“The skin had started stretching so tautly she couldn’t move her head,” she explains. “Dr Mia needed to perform a z-plasty procedure on her.”
A z-plasty is a z-shaped incision that’s performed to improve the functionality of the skin and cosmetic appearance of scar tissue.
“The procedure went well. She was under for two hours and was in a lot of pain when she woke up but she’s recovering now,” Anicè says.
Pippie was also given Botox injections to help her muscles relax.
“My Pippie is doing well,” Anicè says.
She adds Pippie is developing physically now. Doctors initially told Anicè that, because of her daughter’s extensive injuries, she wouldn’t grow breasts but once again Pippie is defying the odds.
“I discovered a lump on her chest one day that concerned me but the doctor assured me she was just going through normal puberty,” Anicè says.
Pippie is also like other kids on the cusp of teenagehood, she adds.
“Like every pre-teen, she has her moods. But she’s still the most beautiful, friendly little girl.”
Pippie and Anicè live in Stilbaai with Pippie’s little brother, Arno (10). “It’s like finding peace after all the hurt of everything that’s happened,” Anicè told YOU in 2019 soon after the family had moved to the Western Cape seaside town.
The Krugers were traumatised after a robbery on their farm in Lephalale a few months before.
“They broke in, took the television, locked us in the house and drove off in our bakkie,” Anicè recalled. The family were asleep during the break-in and only realised what had happened the next morning.
“It was the last straw,” she said. Moving to the coast, where her in-laws have a beach house, was the best thing they could’ve done.
“Pippie is more relaxed here – I think she senses things are calmer now.”
Pippie sustained brain damage due to oxygen starvation caused by the accident and her mom told us she still needed extensive rehabilitation. She could communicate only with sounds and single words but she was a happy child who smiled a lot.
Dad Erwin, a professional hunter, was still based on the family’s farm in Lephalale and visited the family every fifth week for a week or two at a time, Anicè said.