Day of my Accident...
used to be a professional entertainer, and started off with a 5-piece
rock band called Jam Ally. It was a bunch of fun. We had been gigging
for a good few years and the band was really coming together. The
last function was Easter Monday in 1995.
We were on our way
home, about 7.30pm. I was dozing in the passenger seat. My next
memories are a bit hazy but I remember lots of lights, lots of pain,
and been bundled into an ambulance. I remember bits and pieces of
arriving at the hospital; someone asking me if I was pregnant (I
wasn’t), my friend Pat's face for a few seconds, and then I woke
up 5 days later in the Intensive Care Unit. Eeeek!! Three drainage
bags coming out of my tummy, a pipe that goes straight to your heart
(so they can give you an emergency shot of adrenalin if your ticker
stops), can't remember how many drips, and I swear the longest pipe
in medical history up my nose.
It was a bad one.
I had terrible internal injuries – a liver that wouldn’t stop bleeding
so they kept me open that whole week, irrepairable damage to my
gall bladder, a few broken ribs, dislocated shoulder and hip, big
ding from a Doc Martin shoe buckle in my left foot - and I lost
my right leg above the knee. I also left two thirds of my blood
on the road. I learned later that, quite by chance, there was an
ambulance travelling just behind us on its way to another accident.
That particular road is very dark and quiet. I was lucky.
The doctors told
my mother to call a Priest to give me my last rites, I was dying,
wouldn't make it through the night. The only man my mother knew
was my pastor (Christian not Catholic) – Pastor Jackson Khosa –
what a man! That's me with him in the picture on the left. Somehow
she managed to get a message to him, but all he heard was that he
was desperately needed at Intensive Care in the Johannesburg General
Hospital. He raced through but when he got there, he didn’t know
who needed him. They wouldn’t let him through. I still believe that
had he been a white man, they would have made an effort to find
out, but they turned him away.
Anyway, the next
day he came again, this time knowing it was me, and they finally
let him through. And instead of praying death over me, he prayed
life over me. It still brings tears to my eyes. He prayed LIFE.
I survived, and he came every day to pray over me, I was unconscious.
Then came more bad news. I had lost circulation in my other leg
and it needed to be amputated as well. As they wheeled me to the
operating room, Pastor Jackson was there. He asked for a moment
to pray. He prayed LIFE over my leg. Even the nurses couldn't believe
what they saw. The leg grew warm, and pink all over. I never needed
that amputation. That was a true faith healing. And I must also
make mention of the hairline crack in the vertebrae in my neck –
possible paralysis - mysteriously vanished. I am fully recovered
now, except for the amputated right leg, but I get on with my life
as best I can. Don’t you think that is a fabulous story? I love
There was a Christian
nurse in Intensive Care who used to sing to me. I often think about
the phantom pains were unbearable and the opening on my stomach
was about 30cm long. Not very pleasant. After two weeks they moved
me from Intensive Care to the Trauma ward. No man! Gun shot victims,
drug overdoses, muggings – and a little old lady across from me
was so badly beaten that she passed away overnight. They just let
her slip away, and nobody came to see her. Horrible.
wasn't allowed anything by mouth for the first 2 weeks because they
weren't sure if it would leak out my stomach. They took blood every
few hours, and eventually my body rebelled against all the abuse.
Every thing hurt. Even my hair. I was on morphine for the pain,
and I remember a nurse saying “this one’s easy, just give her morphine
and she’s quiet”. Funny thing is though, morphine never seemed to
take the pain away, it just kind of distanced my head from my body.
I kept on asking
to go home. That trauma ward was so unpleasant. Let me quickly mention
that I had no medical aid, so it was a public hospital. The nurses
were rough, the ablutions were disgusting, and there was a constant
stream of different doctors and interns coming to stare and poke
and ask stupid questions.
I had a total of
about 120 stitches between my leg and my stomach – staples actually.
Stitches would have been a hellava lot better I think. I also had
3 pipes coming out of my mid-section, for drainage or something.
Then came the time to take them out. Well, the nurse managed to
get two of them out, but the thickest one just wouldn’t budge. It
felt like she was going to rip my insides out. Eventually she realised
that something was not right (DUH) and we waited for the surgeon
to come and check it out the next day. He looked, and tugged a bit,
then he said “grit your teeth” and gave it an almighty yank. Lawdy
lawd, out came the pipe AND A STITCH! It was attached to something
inside. Man that was sore.
The nurses and doctors
kept on telling me that I couldn’t go home because “you can’t even
clean yourself yet”. Nice one – sent someone off to liberate a wheelchair
from another floor, and that day (it was about 4 weeks after I had
been admitted), between the two of us we got me into the bath, hair
washed, the whole trip. Ok, so it took about 3 hours, but mum’s
the word there. I had become accustomed to having a full time drip
in my hand, so it was easy to disconnect it for that time, and just
pop it back on afterwards. And nobody missed me from the ward. Go
I was discharged
the next day (1st set of doctors said ‘no’, later that day I asked
again and the 2nd set said ok). An intern gave me a bottle of Dolorol
(your basic over-the-counter aspirin), and said ‘bye’. Charming.
I had no idea how to look after the residual limb, what to expect,
how I was going to cope physically at home or anytime in the future.
Nothing. Never mind looking after the leg, the damn stomach was
the problem – it opened up in 2 places about 3 days after I got
home. Apparently not uncommon. Hello, thanks for the warning guys!
My son was 8 years
old at the time of my accident. I didn't want to see anyone while
I was in hospital (very few anyway), and he was the one person that
I am grateful NEVER saw me while I was in that state. He has no
idea how really bad it was, and if he wants to know one day, I am
sure someone will tell him. When he eventaully came to see mom,
he had a look at the leg, asked if I would be able to play soccer
with him again, and that was that. My trauma never became his. And
I have two wonderful people to thank for this - Jimmy and Charmaine.
Friends and angels in more ways than one.
Since then I have
had a problem with adhesions on my colon. Damn thing just grew closed.
Just like that. Another delightful experience and once again, I
wasn’t on medical aid. By the time I eventually got to the hospital,
they reckoned I had about an hour to live. But, of course, they
couldn’t operate immediately because there were patients lined up
outside the operating theatre in droves. My poor mother. What I
haven’t put her through, I swear. I was very weak by that stage,
so I don’t remember things too clearly. I will never forget the
following though – the man who was with us heard an anesthetist
calling “who’s next?” He just grabbed my gurney and pushed me into
the theatre. The theatre was a shocker in itself. No heating, blood
splatters from the previous guy, a gun shot victim, and the doctor
shouting for the nurses who apparently had decided to go on a tea
break. That was about 3am.
Ah the joys of government
hospitals in South Africa. I remember on the third day in the ward,
the nurse came and said that she was removing the catheter because
I had to get up and walk – the exercise would do me good. Anyone
who’s had a laparotomy or any kind of stomach surgery will know
the full extend of the pain you go through. No sneezing, no coughing,
no moving. I just looked at her. I said “but I can’t walk”. She
said “what’s wrong with your legs”, the sarcastic cow. After 3 days
in her ward, she hadn’t even noticed that I was an amputee. Yip,
those places will kill you for sure!
I can go on and
on about my bad experiences in our hospitals, but I won’t. We’ll
all have nightmares. Just do yourself a favour – if you don’t have
medical aid – GET ONE NOW. And if you are travelling to SA, even
for a short spell, please don’t even think of not taking out adequate
A friend of mine
fell 3 stories onto a concrete parking lot. After 28 days in a public
hospital in Cape Town, someone realised that she was starving to
death. She had smashed her jaw, her tongue was held on by a thread,
and she hadn’t been able to eat!
Public health care
sucks. Period. I am lucky to be alive.