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PATIENT STORIES

Meet Liam

Every parent dreads the day that something bad happens to their child. For Audrey, her worst nightmare came true on Saturday afternoon when her son was accidentally knocked over by a motor vehicle.

Liam, who is only four-years-old, was rushed to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital on Saturday afternoon by the distraught driver. Liam had been playing in the street with his friends when the accident occurred. He fell and knocked his head on the pavement.

Approach Liam and his mom in the Trauma Unit and you’d never say that Liam had just been involved in a horrible accident. Ask Audrey how she felt on that tragic day and she can hardly put a sentence together.

She manages, “It was horrible, it was just horrible”

Shortly after arriving at the Hospital, Liam underwent a Computed Tomography (CT) scan to make sure that there were no internal injuries or damage to the brain. The doctors were so relieved when Liam was able to recall the names of everyone in his family.

While his mother tries to explain what had happened on that fateful day, Liam sits quietly on her lap and stares up at her. Another lady next to their bed offers Liam some chips but he refuses and drinks his yoghurt instead. Audrey giggles and says, “He loves his yoghurt so much.”

Liam is one of the lucky ones. Each year, about 50 children are admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital with severe head injuries.  Liam escaped with one or two scratches on his head and left leg.

Medical Director of the ICU at the Hospital, Professor Andrew Argent, says that the majority of children admitted for head injuries are often those who have been involved in pedestrian motor vehicle accidents.

He explains, “Over the last decade, the neurosurgical team at the Hospital, together with the ICU, have invested huge amounts of time and effort in caring for these children, finding better ways to care for them and understanding the nature of their injuries. On the one hand we’ve seen a substantial improvement in the outcomes of these children and on the other hand, there is a deep frustration as many of these injuries are completely avoidable and unnecessary.”

World Head Injury Awareness Day takes place on 20 March, serving as a reminder that accidents and brain injuries can be reduced. It advocates the use of safety devices such as seat belts or helmets. With an estimate of 89 000 new traumatic brain injuries reported annually in South Africa, this is an incredibly significant day.

Argent explains that few children who have a head injury severe enough to require ICU admission will survive completely unscathed. Most will carry into later life some scars and handicaps as a result of this injury.

He says, “Few families will come through this experience without deep scars from this experience.”

For Liam and Audrey, their trip to the Red Cross Children’s Hospital is hopefully one that will soon be forgotten. Many children are not as lucky. 

Make a difference this World Head Injury Awareness Day. Donate to equip the bigger and better ICU at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital through the Children’s Hospital Trust. 100% of your donations will go directly to equipment. Not a single cent is spent on administration costs.

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