Erin-Lee’s life took a tragic turn when she fell off a moving vehicle, hitting her head on the hard concrete road. The critical incident that changed her life took place on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon in May. Erin-Lee was innocently playing with her two best friends on the back of her father’s bakkie before the accident.
Erin-Lee’s father was unaware that she and her friends were at the back of his bakkie. He started his vehicle and began to drive away from their home. Elda, Erin-Lee’s mother, ran outside screaming to her husband to alert him that the girls were at the back of his bakkie. Before he could react, Erin-Lee lost her balance and fell off the bakkie. Elda witnessed the accident while running after the vehicle and saw her daughter fall to the ground.
Erin-Lee’s little body went into shock and she was immediately rushed to Vredendal Hospital. When she arrived at the hospital she had seizure and was transferred to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital trauma unit. Doctors reacted quickly and Erin-Lee went for a CT scan. The scan showed that she had suffered some injury to the brain and they would need to operate immediately.
Elda was in shock. She felt like she was in a nightmare as she sat in the waiting room not knowing what condition her daughter was in. After the first operation, doctors explained to Elda that there was pressure on her daughter’s brain. The only option was to remove the right part of her skull to relieve the pressure. This meant that they would have to operate again.
Elda says, “The doctors said that she was in a very critical condition. It was a matter of life or death and there was only a 50% chance that she would live.”
Erin-Lee went into theatre for the second time. The neurosurgeons removed the right side of her skull, which allowed the brain to swell and not cause any more damage to the brain. The surgery was successful but Erin-Lee still had a long journey to recovery.
Erin-Lee experienced vocal cord paralysis due to her head injury, which affected her breathing. She was dependent on the ventilator to breathe and was unable to speak. Once she had the tracheostomy inserted, she was weaned off the ventilator. This took some time and Erin-Lee spent over two weeks in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) recovering.
Once Erin-Lee started to recover, she was transferred to E1 Renal ward, where she received daily physiotherapy, occupational therapy as well as speech therapy to assist with her vocal cords. She recovered very well and started to speak again. She was even able to speak to her grandmother over the phone.
Elda was part of the Breatheasy Tracheostomy and Ventilation Homecare Programme with Sister Jane Booth, which is designed to help parents take care of children who are dependent on tracheostomies or ventilators. Amazingly, just 11 days after leaving ICU, Erin-Lee’s skull was replaced and her tracheostomy was removed as her airways fully opened. Luckily for Erin-Lee, she only suffered minor injuries to the brain.
Elda is just so thankful that her ‘Christmas baby’ is alive and recovering. Elda has never left Erin-Lee’s bed side. Their mother and daughter bond is so strong and she never gave up on her daughter. “I’m also so thankful for the support groups that helped me get through this tough time,” says Elda.
Erin-Lee is a strong fighter with a kind heart. She went through such a traumatic experience and came out stronger than ever having recovered so well. Erin-Lee was given another chance at childhood.