Many parents underestimate the importance of learning basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first aid, says Richards Bay mother Amanda Kruger, as she recalls the traumatic near-drowning of her son, Juandre, five months ago.
“Knowing how to perform CPR and first aid is very important. I always thought that I would not need it and that bad things would not happen to me, but after pulling my son out of the swimming pool and knowing there was nothing I could do for him but pray, I now know differently. I will never forget that feeling of total helplessness,” Kruger says.
“When I saw Juandre in the swimming pool, I kept hoping that he was okay, even though he was already floating face-down in the water. When I pulled him out, his eyes were big, his lips and the bottom of his feet were blue – he was effectively dead. Miraculously he made it and today, five months later he has completely recovered.”
Kruger says the four-year-old is back to his old self, despite doctors fearing the worst and initial scans showing brain damage. Nowadays Juandre is eating normally, talking again and his personality is the same as it was prior to the near-drowning.
She attributes Juandre’s ultimate recovery to a combination of good medical care and prayer, referring to the medical professionals who treated him as ‘God’s angels’.
Everything changed in a matter of seconds
Kruger says that apart from learning how to do CPR, parents and caregivers should always keep an eye on children and must know where they are at all times.
She says on 15 October last year, she was looking for the then three-year-old Juandre all over the house, thinking he had to be inside, as all the doors were closed. When she found one door open, she immediately rushed outside, only to find Juandre floating in the swimming pool, unresponsive.
When she shouted for help, their tenant immediately came to her rescue and helped her to take her son to hospital, she says.
“We rushed to Netcare The Bay Hospital’s emergency department, where it took doctors and nursing staff between 30 and 40 minutes to resuscitate Juandre. We thought he was not going to make it and kept praying. An emotional time followed. His condition was so serious, every week there was another complication.”
“A scan done on 21 October showed that there was brain damage but when another scan was done on 10 December, it reflected nothing abnormal.”
Kruger recalls how swollen Juandre’s stomach was after an ulcer developed because of the chlorine in the swimming pool water that he swallowed and the shock to his body.
The family’s hopes revived after Richard Schouten, operations manager of the Netcare 911 base at Netcare The Bay Hospital, saw Juandre’s eyes reacting to light and movement. He also noticed that Juandre was responding to sound.
Schouten, who is an advanced life support paramedic, was part of the team who transported Juandre to Netcare Parklands Hospital in Durban on 17 November and to a rehabilitation facility in Durban in December for further treatment. Schouten was caring for the little boy throughout the journey to Durban, and says that at the time he did not think Juandre would fully recover.
“Medically speaking, I thought this child was going to be in a vegetative state because initially it seemed that he did not react to any stimulus,” he recalls.
“I was quietly, silently hopeful but I was not expecting such an incredible recovery. For me, Juandre’s story was a great motivator, as his recovery reaffirmed the value of the work we do. Success stories like this make working in emergency medical services a very rewarding vocation.”
Importance of CPR
Schouten adds that many South Africans think that they will never need CPR and underestimate the importance of learning this life-saving skill. He says CPR has many applications in emergency situations where a person cannot breathe.
“CPR is a resuscitation technique that mimics the action of the heartbeat and breathing and maintains the flow of oxygenated blood to the brain, preventing brain damage when the heart stops beating.”
“You never know when you will need to do CPR to help save a life, but if you can’t do it when the need arises you will be left helpless. CPR and basic first aid are absolute musts which often mean the difference between life and death,” Schouten says.
Netcare 911’s general manager of national operations, Shalen Ramduth, cautions parents going away on the Easter weekend break to keep a close eye on their children. He says a child can drown in a few centimetres of water and in a matter of moments, so they should be closely supervised by responsible adults at all times.
“Ensure that you always keep an eye on children at home near the swimming pool and especially if you are going to the beach during the holiday season. If you are at the beach, swim where there are lifeguards on duty and be mindful of weather reports while adhering to warning signs,” he advises.
“Keep the emergency medical services numbers handy and remember you can contact Netcare 911 on 082 911 from anywhere in the country. Be sure to give the dispatcher an accurate address and the exact location of where you are. Also provide your number in case you get cut off and stay on the line with the despatcher as long as needed. Stay safe and be alert during the holiday season,” he concludes.