For the first time in over seven months, burn victim Pippie Kruger, three, spent a night in the same house as her parents, away from a hospital.
Pippie was given her first weekend pass from the Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital, something her mother, Anice, hopes will be a regular thing.
“I was always scared to ask (the doctors) for a weekend pass because I was scared they were going to say no,” she said.
But when one of the rehab doctors suggested it would be beneficial, Anice jumped at the opportunity.
And so Anice, Pippie and her dad, Erwin, spent the weekend at their rented Melville home, receiving visitors – including Pippie’s original doctor, plastic surgeon Ridwan Mia.
“I actually cooked for the first time in eight months,” laughed Anice.
Another important first for the mother-daughter pair was Pippie’s first normal bath since she was injured.
It was a special landmark because, until recently, cleaning Pippie’s skin was a painful exercise for the little girl and had to occur under the sterile conditions of a theatre room.
Pippie was burnt on over 80 percent of her body when a gel firelighter exploded on New Year’s Eve.
Doctors at Netcare Garden City Hospital, where she was taken, gave her three days to live when she was admitted.
But Pippie clung to life, surviving multiple-organ failure, cardiac arrest five times and 45 operations.
After five months in the paediatric ICU she made local history when skin grown from her own cells in a Genzyme lab in Boston was placed over her burns.
The operation was a success, and she was recently discharged from hospital and moved to a rehab centre.
For about five weeks she has been receiving therapy at the Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital to regain her strength and flexibility.
Anice said Pippie’s head control and the flexibility of her legs had improved, and that she was more alert and awake.
“All of that has been giving her so much energy that we struggle to get her to sleep,” she said.
Pippie is receiving oxygen therapy, where she is placed in a high-pressure chamber and given pure oxygen through a face mask.
This has sped up her healing.
But sitting up and speaking are two milestones that still need to be reached.
“It was good to see her outside [a hospital] environment… Going through all of that, it’s quite difficult and I have an interest in seeing her well,” said Mia of his weekend visit with the family.
The doctor still visits Pippie two or three times a week in rehab to check how her wounds are healing.