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Durban - Three part-time lifeguards who were badly injured in a hit-and-run on the South Coast have been assured by the province’s top doctor of better things to come.
Health MEC Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo on Thursday visited the three 18-year-old friends - Nhlanhla Mqadi, Vumani Makhanya and Siyabonga Mafuna - at their homes at Umzumbe near Hibberdene.
Dhlomo, a medical doctor, had stopped his convoy to help them as they lay writhing in pain on the N2, at Umzumbe Bridge.
He was on Thursday accompanied by two doctors who will start fitting Mqadi with prosthetics. Both of his legs were amputated after the June 29 accident. The teen was told he might be able to walk again, despite the challenges his medical team face.
“Our ultimate goal is to guarantee that Nhlanhla is able to walk again - without crutches,” said Dr Moroka Manqele. “We’ve got our work cut out for us when it comes to the shorter stump because short stumps usually present a problem, but we will sort it out.”
Manqele and colleague Dr S’thembiso Blose were optimistic after assessing Mqadi, saying that he would need extensive physiotherapy and training.
“This will obviously be a major change to him because he will basically have to learn how to balance, how to walk with crutches, and then how to walk without the crutches, but this will boil down to him and how he responds to the therapy and it boils down to his determination,” Manqele said.
Dhlomo said he was shocked by the level of poverty he had seen during his visit to the three friends, and he was worried this might not be conducive to their full recovery.
“He (Mqadi) can’t stay in a shack or a house with no running water. We don’t wish for his injuries to deteriorate. If we don’t look after him often, he will suffer from diseases. His condition has created a disabled life for him. We need to assist with a house with clear sanitation.”
The MEC said he would “prioritise this as a doctor”.
“This (accident) has changed his life. He won’t live longer if he does not get a decent house. He needs to be taken care of. I am happy that they have built a house for him, but they need a bigger house for his wheelchair. I will guard the quality of his life.”
He also arranged for the Red Cross to transport Mqadi and Makhanya to and from school.
Makhanya, who has had metal plates implanted in both legs, is his family’s sole breadwinner but is now battling to walk.
“He used to buy his family groceries with the money that he made in his part-time job. He couldn’t even buy himself a cellphone or airtime like other kids,” said Dhlomo.
Mafuna still suffered from chest pains and headaches, said Dhlomo, who promised to buy him a TV once his house was electrified.
He described as heartbreaking the conditions the three teens were living in, saying he would ask the KZN Department of Social Development to help them. Dhlomo also handed groceries and R800 in cash to the three families.
The three part-time lifeguards had just left work at Hibberdene’s Three Tower 13 station and were walking home when they were hit by a bakkie. They were then ignored by other motorists as they lay at the edge of the road for an hour until the MEC’s convoy stopped.
Mqadi said his life had changed since the accident, from independence to reliance on his family for basic things. “The day I got knocked was the worst day of my life. Now I can’t get anywhere freely. I wish to walk again, to go back to school.”
But the crash and disability would not stop him, he vowed. “I can still go to school to empower myself through studying and I want to have my own family one day.”
Despite Mqadi having told police the hit-and-run bakkie was a Nissan with NPS registration - he only noticed the first three digits, 135 - police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said no arrest had yet been made.