Medical teams step up to the plate for young burn victim

Weeks of pain and discomfort fade as toddler embarks on mercy flight

Tuesday, October 8 2013

Just like any four-year-old toddler, Luvuyo Mathobela wanted to share his first experience of being on board an aircraft with loved ones, so with his mother’s help he phoned his grandfather to tell him they were about to take to the skies. However, this was no ordinary flight as little Luvuyo was on a Netcare 911 air ambulance headed for Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.

For a few hours Luvuyo, who suffered serious burns 12 weeks ago, could forget the pain and discomfort as he lay secured on the aircraft’s specially configured medical stretcher.

The day Luvuyo fell into a scalding hot bath will forever be etched on his memory. Suffering full thickness (third-degree) burns over 42% of his body, which also severely damaged the nerves and blood vessels, Luvuyo faced a life-threatening situation from that moment on.

As his small body mounted a severe metabolic response to his injuries, doctors and nurses at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital valiantly tried to save the life of the brave little boy. According to Dr Dave Kloeck, paediatric intensivist at the Paediatric Burns Unit of Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital, Luvuyo’s condition was dire as he contracted infection after infection. Several skin grafts were performed, all without success, despite the best possible medical care.

The only option was to transfer the seriously compromised little boy to Professor Hans Roode at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Burns Unit in Cape Town, for specialised burns treatment. The challenge, however, was to do this without further compromising the already frail little boy.

When Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s general manager emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment, received a call from Dr Kloeck asking for Netcare’s assistance, she and her team swiftly

mobilised the necessary resources. Less than 24 hours later a fully equipped Netcare 911 air ambulance, staffed by a team of seasoned advance life support paramedics, was headed for Cape Town with Luvuyo and his mother, Nomaphelo Mathobela, on board.

“The Netcare Foundation did not hesitate to offer the much needed assistance. We wanted to support the medical team at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital in ensuring that Luvuyo would be given every possible chance at recovery. The Netcare 911 team under chief operating officer, Craig Grindell, put the necessary resources in place within a short timeframe. Several suppliers offered to sponsor various aspects of the mercy flight, including fuel. The Netcare 911 management team and advanced life support paramedics also stepped forward to offer their personal time to care for Luvuyo during his transfer,” says Toubkin.

According to Grindell, Netcare 911’s air ambulances are equipped as mobile intensive care units for adult and paediatric patients. “For this journey the aircraft was fitted with special equipment, including a vacuum mattress to ensure that Luvuyo could have a comfortable, pain-free journey. Making a difference in the life of this precious little boy was a meaningful experience for us as a team.”

“In South Africa, burns are the leading cause of trauma-related deaths in children under the age of four, and the third most common cause of trauma-related deaths in people under 18. Netcare 911 assists patients who have been burned by fires caused by paraffin, electric heaters and even as a result of gas explosions. Chemicals and hot substances that may be knocked or pulled from a stove, such as hot water or food, pose extreme danger especially for children,” he adds.

“Serious burns are among the most painful of injuries because of damage to the nerve endings. Victims of serious burns could suffer multifaceted injuries. In addition to severely damaging the skin, muscles and nerves, burns may impact other organs and bodily functions, including the lungs and in some cases even result in respiratory arrest,” Toubkin explains.

“In South Africa thousands of people are burned each year and require long-term treatment in hospital as well as extensive rehabilitation. As burns affect the skin they can also impact the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Burns may cause disfigurement resulting in patients suffering emotional and psychological problems for many years to come,” concludes Toubkin.

Issued by : Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Sarah Beswick or Graeme Swinney
Telephone : (011) 469 3016
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