Saturday, 10 September 2011

Events of the 15 March 2007



On the 15 March 2007, between 17h30 and 17h40 our 17 year old son, Clinton  was involved in a motorcycle accident. He had a valid motorcycle license for a 125cc motorbike, which he was riding (his own licensed bike). He was on his way to extra maths when a motorist did an illegal U-Turn without checking for other vehicles and hit him.  He went flying across four lanes, hit the curb, hit a fence and then landed on the pavement. We received a phone call from a bystander to say he was in an accident, but he was ok and an ambulance was on the way. We arrived at the accident scene within 5 minutes driving through peak hour traffic. There was no ambulance and no paramedic. We waited almost an hour for an ambulance and bystanders phoned their different networks at various intervals, thinking theirs was better than the next one. My son’s father phoned Netcare 911, but we still did not get a response. We have since learned that if you dial the emergency number 112 from any cell phone network, it automatically defaults to 10111, unless you specify which private emergency service you want. I was getting desperate, my son was in severe pain and had a total personality change and he repeated himself to such an extent that it was abnormal for someone even in severe shock. His memory was deteriorating rapidly. I was concerned that he had trauma to the brain. I then phoned 10111 and they said an ambulance is on the way. A fire engine arrived and what we thought was a paramedic examined my son, because this was the impression he gave us, we have since found out that he was just fire crew from Randburg Fire Station with basic ambulance crew knowledge. I told him that there was something wrong with my son’s brain, because of his constant repetition of the questions we were answering and the personality change. This “paramedic” told me he checked for concussion and neck injury and there was none. Anyone even with no medical knowledge whatsoever knows that concussion is not the only sign of trauma to the brain.  I still insisted there was something wrong with his brain and he ignored me. He told everyone it was only minor injuries, a couple of cracked ribs.  In the meantime an ambulance also from Randburg arrived and this same “paramedic” told the ambulance crew it was only minor injuries and asked my son’s father which hospital we wanted him taken to, we chose Wilgeheuwel hospital, because it was close to both home and the accident scene and we believed that it was an excellent hospital, because it advertises that it is a World Class Medical Facility, and the ambulance crew was in no rush to get going.  Whilst my son was being put into the ambulance, Netcare paramedics arrived on the scene, this was now an hour since the accident, the “paramedic” told Netcare it was only minor injuries, so they left. My son was freezing cold; there was not a single blanket in the ambulance, let alone a shock blanket. I found a cotton sheet and covered him with that, obviously that did not make the slightest difference.  The ambulance driver took his time, through peak hour traffic, sitting at red robots, with no siren or flashing lights. This fire engine crew member also told the metro police officer who arrived at the accident scene after the ambulance had left, that it was only slight injuries, so the vehicles were removed without the road being marked and this is a case of culpable homicide.



We arrived at the hospital and no one came to assist us. The paramedics took him to a ward in the casualty unit, but could not take him off the stretcher. I asked if I could help them and a nurse said that they could not move him until a doctor came, I asked why no one was coming to examine him and she said she did not know. I asked her who the doctor was and explained who the doctor was, this woman had walked past the ward a couple of times, just ignoring my son and the ambulance crew. This same woman walked right past my son whilst he was lying on the stretcher in the passage she did not even bat an eyelid.  I went out the ward to go and call her, even though the ambulance crew at the scene said my son only had broken ribs, he was in severe pain, freezing cold and his colour and memory was deteriorating.  I said to this woman, my son needs a doctor; he had an accident and had waited on the pavement for an hour. She ignored me, walked into an office, picked up the phone and phoned someone.  I was getting hysterical and angry, but she ignored me, asking her to please come and look at my son. I could see part of the waiting room where I was standing and a mother picked up her child and said “come we are going somewhere else I can’t wait anymore for a doctor”. At that moment, this woman, whom the nurse said was a doctor, was discussing in Afrikaans, that they had had a meeting about a patient complaining and I shouted at her that she should not be surprised that patients are complaining, she had a waiting room full of patients, a mother had just walked out because she was tired of waiting for a doctor and my son had been involved in an accident and was in severe pain. She turned her back on me and carried on with the conversation. Then the receptionist came to me and asked for details, I shouted at him and said he must not dare ask me for details when they do not even have a doctor to come and help my child. He went off back to his desk.  The doctor got off the phone and said to me in a sickly sweet voice, “Shame did you think I am a doctor, I am not a doctor, let me go find Dr Mabandla” I went back to my son and told the nurse that, that woman said she was not a doctor. She said that she had always known her to be a doctor. We have since found out that she is "Dr" Marietta V.D. Merwe. Then at 19h20 a Dr Mabandla walked into the ward and took one look at my son and said he did not like his colour. He took x-rays and bloods and came and told us that my son did not have broken ribs, but severe internal bleeding, due to a severely injured liver and was losing blood rapidly and that was the reason why I thought he had an injury to his brain.  He had no blood going to his brain.  However, my son was still talking, he still recognised us, but forgot everything he was told immediately.  We were told that a surgeon was on his way to take him to theatre and we had to give consent for him to be given a blood transfusion. There was a lot of confusion and discussion as to where they had to get blood from as their ICU did not have any and they were not sure if they had to phone the blood bank. By now it was 20h00. During this whole time they only allowed us to see my son for a few minutes.



Dr Rademan, the surgeon, then arrived, twenty minutes later, told my son he was taking him to theatre and told me to come and wait outside the theatre when they took my son there. I had to complete forms and whilst I was completing the forms, Dr Rademan phoned from theatre asking for his patient, the nurses said they were on the way.  I had completed the forms, yet my son was still in casualty. Dr Rademan came storming into the ward and said a patient like that should be in theatre and not in the ward. Their excuse was they were filling in forms, Dr Rademan said he was not interested in forms and went rushing to theatre with my son. I was completing the forms not my son so that was a pathetic excuse. Obviously their forms are more important than someone’s life. My son went to theatre at 20h30; he was still talking, but had a definite personality change and he had been in their hospital since 18h50 and had the accident between 17h30 and 17h40. Where was the Golden Hour, which is crucial to the survival of accident victims? Whilst, I was sitting outside the theatre a nursing sister came to theatre and asked me, the mother of the patient, which theatre Dr Rademan was in because she needed to speak to him, because he needed a machine the hospital did not have.  She then found a theatre nurse and told them that she was going to drive to Sunninghill hospital in her private car to fetch the machine Dr Rademan needed. Sunninghill is not even part of the Life Health Care Group. This was a machine he needed to clean my son’s own blood and put it back into his body.  She then brought the machine later and had to call out the technician who knew how to work the machine. 
Hours later an assistant surgeon by the name of DR Tiechert (or something like that) came out of the theatre and told us my son was critical, two thirds of his liver was shattered and brought out a dish with my son’s liver in it and showed it to us. He said that my son had had a huge operation, but had his youth and health on his side and would go back to theatre on the Saturday. We were told to wait outside ICU.
Whilst we were waiting outside ICU, a man from the blood bank was wandering around and we asked him, who the blood was for, knowing full well that it was for my son.  He confirmed this and said that no one at the hospital knew who the blood was for and they were sending him from pillar to post.  We told him my son was still in theatre. He then told us he was going to JG Strydom hospital to get more blood for my son.  Amazing, how we were at a private hospital, but the blood had to be fetched from a provincial hospital. Even more amazing was the fact that everyone was running after us for our medical aid card, but they did not know who my son was or who the blood was for. Eventually, my son was wheeled out of theatre and Dr Rademan explained that he was on a ventilator and could not speak to us.  He explained that he had had about 5.5 litres of blood in his stomach, and for his weight and height, he should have had only 5 litres in his whole body. He explained that they had packed his liver full of swabs to stop the bleeding and had put his own blood back into his body plus other blood and that he would be going back to theatre on Saturday. He told us to go and have coffee whilst they stabilised him in ICU and to come back to ICU in half an hour. There was nowhere to have coffee in the hospital at that time of the night, so we stayed outside ICU and a nurse organised us coffee.  An hour later Dr Rademan came out and said, they were calling in a Physician, because my son was deteriorating rapidly.
The physician, Dr Ballantyne came to us and explained that my son was not responding to painful stimuli and that his brain was not functioning and because of the total blood loss it caused secondary complications to all his organs and that he was on very high doses of adrenaline to keep his blood pressure up. He went into long medical explanations and asked if we understood what he was saying. I asked if my son would live and he said no. Once he got to a point with all the adrenaline in him he would die.  Obviously, I did not believe him and we asked him if it was because of the delay in treatment, he said no one could survive such a bad injury to his liver. I do not believe that, because he survived with that shattered liver for three hours and was talking and just like I knew in my gut that my son’s brain was affected in someway from the accident, I know that had he received medical treatment within the first hour of having the accident, he would not have lost so much blood which caused complications to his other organs causing him to die. He would have been critically ill, but I know he would have lived. I also believe that if he had no chance of surviving trauma to his liver, Dr Rademan would not have rushed him to theatre with such urgency. The doctors told us to go and sit with him and I was talking to him, when he suddenly lifted his eyebrows. From then on every time we spoke to him he lifted his eyebrows.  I told Dr Ballantyne, who then called my son and he lifted his eyebrows, this was not someone who was brain dead.  Dr Ballantyne, said it was a good sign and then told me to just hold his hand and not talk to him, because I was stressing him.  Then he left. I really do not believe a mother telling her son that she loves him and to be strong was stressing him. At least he knew we were there with him. Whilst the nurses where busy with him, he kept trying to push them away, by moving his arms and head, this was so typical of him, as he hated being pampered and fussed over. He then became very still and passed away at approximately 3 am.

We and more than half of the 200 odd people at his funeral believe that something has to be done about Wilgeheuwel hospital. There is an article in our local newspaper about a mother who took her Down syndrome son to Wilgeheuwel casualty on the 13 March 2007, because he chocked on a chicken bone.  The doctor on duty ignored her, whilst her son was going blue, she (the mother) dislodged the chicken bone.  This was the same doctor who told me she was not a doctor, she is dam right she is not a doctor and she needs to be struck off the role.  The fact that a patient had complained about her just the day before made no difference to her attitude to my son. The manager of the hospital, Victor Taute, says in the article that he is going to send his admin staff on a First Aid Course so they can assess the situation, when a patient walks in. Why must we pay exorbitant fees to use their facilities and then have an admin clerk do first aid on us? Knowing how serious the situation is makes no difference, because there is only one doctor and two qualified nursing staff on duty during peak times and then that same doctor just decides she is not a doctor, because she is tired and should be going home in ten minutes. This Mr Taute, just said that to shut the media up.  They had a meeting that very day about assessing the situation, before worrying about payment, but whilst my son was in the examination ward, a 2 week old baby was rushed in and the parents said please can a doctor help our baby it is two weeks old and stopped breathing. The receptionist asked for details.  That baby could not be seen to because the only doctor on duty was busy with my critically injured son and they waited until my son went to theatre and I am not sure if the baby was seen next or the people who had been sitting there since before 18h45. He is just exploiting his admin staff, because they obviously earn very little and the hospital is not prepared to put back any of their high profits into employing more qualified and trained staff.
Marietjie Shelley, the communications manager at Life Healthcare, told me Wilgeheuel Hospital is not a trauma hospital, Flora Clinic is the trauma hospital, but then why do they have a huge sign outside their hospital calling themselves Wilgeheuwel Accident & Emergency Hospital, is accident and trauma not the same thing. If the hospital is not a trauma unit why did Marietta  VD Merwe not transfer my son to their trauma hospital which is just up the road instead of making personal calls and ignoring patients in need of medical care. Transferring him would have taken less than 30 minutes, the time he spent waiting for a doctor.  Also in the article in the Randburg Sun, Mr Taute refers to his casualty department as the Accident and Emergency Unit. Casualty also means someone involved in some sort of an accident. One of the bystanders who got to the accident scene right after my son had the accident, was so upset and furious when she heard that he had passed away, she went to the hospital and demanded to know why he had died when she had left him at the accident scene alive, talking, conscious and lucid.  She refused to leave until they gave her answers. All they told her was that they were not an accident unit, but a medical unit. A medical unit that could not help someone choking on a chicken bone and a baby that could not breathe and a huge big sign saying that they are an accident and emergency hospital.  They need to be forced to take down that sign and to put up a sign that says 24 hour GP practice and not casualty and that they are not a hospital but a clinic for booked procedures. Also if Flora Clinic is a trauma hospital, why did the staff member have to drive miles away to get a machine from a hospital that is not even part of their group and not get it from their trauma hospital up the road?

A Mr Andre Hancke, the Financial Manager of the casualty department told me they will do an internal investigation and I must not go to the medical and dental council, because I will have to get affidavits and they (the hospital) won’t ask for affidavits.  Does he really think getting affidavits will be a hassle or too much trouble for me?
I also need my son’s medical records from the hospital to give to the Hospital Association of South Africa and Cindy Strauss, the patient manager at Wilgeheuwel told me the records are at their legal department at head office and Marietjie Shelly from Head Office said their offices had been gutted in a fire on the 21 March 2007, but no one can give me answers to where those records are.
We lost a caring, loving, kind and responsible 17 year old who did everything the right way and who helped anyone and everyone, because the system was against him and an ambulance crew member and a doctor refused to care and help him. I know nothing will bring my son back, but I need to put a stop to this disgusting service from a private hospital, to prevent other families from going through what we are going through. The main concern of the bystanders at the accident scene was that his parents got there quickly so that he did not go to a provincial hospital, in hindsight he would have been better off had they sent him to a provincial hospital. I also need that doctor to pay for her lack of ethics.
It is 15 weeks later and we have not had a response from the hospital or the Hospital Association of South Africa, but the hospital did send us a bill of over R49,000.00 for 7 hours in their hospital and his total bills amount to over R92, 000.00. For what just so we can bury him.

Netcare 911 thinks that a response time of 35 minutes is excellent. The accident was not very far from their offices it was not in some remote area of South Africa
Respectfully yours,
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