It’s been a week since he accidentally drank poison from a plastic cooldrink bottle, and LJ de Lange from Wolmaransstad in North West says he’s learnt his lesson – he won’t drink anything again without asking his mom first.
Nine-year-old LJ is fine now, all smiles and energy – but it could’ve been a very different outcome if he’d taken just one or two more sips of the potentially lethal liquid.
“I drank poison, but not a lot. I feel better now,” he says.
The Grade 2 boy can’t remember much of the incident. “I just remember when Mommy drove me to hospital she kept saying I mustn’t fall asleep and I was very tired. When we got to the hospital, the nurse said it’s okay for me to go to sleep and I don’t remember anything after that.”
But his mother Lezanné, a stay-at-home mom and baker, remembers last Thursday’s events only too well.
LJ is her child from a previous relationship but she and her husband, Gert Rossouw, a miner, have two daughters, Lemé (2) and Carla (1). The little girls had pets’ day at their daycare that morning – and that inadvertently set off the catastrophic chain of events.
When she dropped the girls off at daycare, she’d mentioned to a friend that the family’s German shepherd had a bad skin problem which caused its hair to fall out in clumps, leaving dry patches.
“She told me she got a dip from the vet called Taktic. I went to her house where she poured some into a Powerade bottle for me to take home.”
Lezanné says on her way to LJ’s school, she tried hiding the bottle between the seats in her bakkie. She picked her son up from school and they went home, where she started making lunch.
“The next thing I knew, it was two o’ clock and I told LJ we had to go and pick up his sisters,” she recalls.
“Every day after school, LJ will ask me for something to drink or if he can have a sip of whatever I’m drinking. He always asks, he doesn’t just take.”
This time, however, he didn’t ask. As they were reversing out of the driveway to fetch the girls, Lezanné heard LJ spitting and gagging. “He yelled, ‘yuck, what’s this?’” she recalls.
Lezanné immediately realised he’d got his hands on the Powerade bottle and had a sip of the poison. She ran inside with her son and told him to drink some water while she called her mom, who told her to give LJ some milk. She then called her mom, who told her to give him some milk. LJ went pale and clammy and started stumbling.
“That’s when he said, ‘Mommy, I’m very tired.’ I grabbed him and put him in the bakkie and we raced to hospital.”
He was put on a drip and given activated charcoal to counter the poison. Lezanné, who’d had a stillbirth four years ago when she was eight months pregnant, was terrified of losing another child.
“LJ and his sisters have always been healthy. LJ has never even broken an arm.”
He was semi-comatose and his heartbeat was faint. Doctors administered adrenaline and treated him every hour, mostly by flushing his system with water. By Saturday morning his condition had improved and he was found not have suffered any kidney or liver damage.
By Sunday he was back home – with a ravenous appetite. His first meal after being discharged was at Spur. “I had my favourite: cheesy pizza and a bubblegum milkshake,” he says. “It was nice. I’ll never drink something again before first asking my mommy.”
“LJ is still very emotional and he keeps saying he missed me a lot,” Lezanné says. “He’s very close to his mom.”
She says she blamed herself for not putting the bottle out of reach immediately and has learnt a valuable lesson.
“Never delay doing something, because if you’re a busy mom you’re going to forget,” she says. “Immediately put that poison in a safe place.”
Dr Gerhard Verdoorn of the Griffon Poison Information Centre says the pesticide LJ swallowed is for use only on animals and can be fatal for humans.
“It’s illegal to store poison in any packaging other than the original bottle with the original label,” he says.
“This particular poison contains amitraz (a mite killer), which can cause death if ingested by humans. I’ve seen countless similar cases, especially on farms among farmworkers. It’s not that toxic to animals but it’s disastrous for humans.”
Dr Verdoorn says if LJ had taken more than just the one sip and had fallen into a coma, he probably wouldn’t have survived.
He also cautions that you shouldn’t give milk to a person who’s ingested poison.
“In fact, milk allows the body to absorb the poison even faster. Even water can be detrimental with certain poisons. Nil by mouth is best. And get to a hospital immediately.”
He stresses that poison must always be locked away where children don’t have access to it.
For more information, contact Dr Verdoorn at 082-446-8946 or email@example.com