Burn victim wants to become a doctor

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blaze survivor INLSA Michelle Motibi, 5, suffered burns to 86% of her body in a house fire in April 2012. She has been at Red Cross War Memorial Children's hospital since then undergoing treatment. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

Cape Town - Education is the next hurdle for Michelle Motibi, but the five-year-old burn victim from Wallacedene has two “sisters” who are championing her cause as far afield as Germany.

On Saturday night a benefit concert was held in Hamburg to raise funds for the education of Michelle and another patient of the burns unit at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.

Michelle suffered burns to 86 percent of her body in April when a candle fell over in her home, causing a blaze. She was administered palliative care and left to die, but as one of her doctors put it: “Michelle decided that we are not done yet.”

Now, seven months later, she is recovering well.

Dr Roux Martinez said that after her colon had been redirected to a bag, the two ends of the colon had been stitched together again.

“She has gained more use in her right hand since her first reconstructive surgery was completed,” said Martinez.

“She is able to play outside, she is running and jumping and has a better appetite.

“Michelle wants to become a doctor and her knowledge of burn care is astounding. She even has useful comments on suggesting what dressings to use and whether a patient’s urine output is sufficient or not.”

A proper education is the next step for Michelle. St Joseph’s Home in Montana that cares for children with chronic medical conditions who need regular access to the hospital, has been identified as the way forward, as she would have to be taken to the hospital twice a day for rehabilitation.

Two funds have been set up by Phoenix Burns Project and The Friends of the Children’s Hospital Association for the education of Michelle and another burns unit patient. The education will cost about R70 000 a year for both children.

Marie Mey, an 18-year-old from Hamburg, Germany, who volunteers with the Friends of the Children’s Hospital Association, has built a strong relationship with Michelle.

Mey has taken on the role of a big sister, holding Michelle’s hand when she has her dressings changed and trying to trick her into eating her vegetables.

Mey and Liezel Menigo, the project manager of the association, have started raising funds for the education of Michelle and the other burns unit patient.

“I believe that something will happen with her. She can do anything because she has this spirit,” Mey said.

“I just want her to have a chance. I want her to have this opportunity to have a good life and she won’t have a good life if no one is going to help her.

“There are people coming to give her money for… clothes, but she needs a good education,” Mey said.

Menigo said: “Education will be key to giving her a better life… We need to do something.”

After Mey approached Menigo about fundraising and was given the go-ahead, Mey approached her high school, Gymnasium Klosterschule in Hamburg.

“I told teachers at my school what we are doing and they chose this topic as the theme of a benefit concert involving German artists in Hamburg,” Mey said.

Menigo said she and Mey planned to hold an annual event for Michelle and other burns unit patients.

“This is a commitment we will continue every year… If you put someone into the right environment, they will flourish.”

The fund for Michelle and the other patient will be added to an existing account for the burns unit, with 60 percent going towards education for the two and 40 percent to the ward.

Having been seeded with R50 000, the Phoenix Burn Survivor Education fund has reached the R59 000 mark.

Mey has a number of videos of Michelle singing and dancing along to Justin Bieber’s hit Baby. Menigo said Michelle loved Bieber and she was trying to organise a visit by the pop star.

She had offered to try to get Chris Brown or Lady Gaga to come and visit, but Michelle only wanted Bieber.

Tears welled up in Menigo’s eyes as she recalled holding Michelle’s hand while having her dressings changed. “She has bad bruising and the scars are still healing. It is really painful for her and she just says, ‘Please hold my hand! Please hold my hand!’”

“She is a tough cookie and took off her own bandage. She has a cut on her abdomen and said: ‘No, its sore, I’ll take it off myself’.”

Cape Argus


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