Abongile Ndlovu before she leaves uMhlanga Hospital. With her is paediatrician Dr Javeni Govender; and her parents Prudence and Isaiah Ndlovu.

Durban - Seven-year-old Abongile Ndlovu, was a picture of happiness after being discharged home from Netcare uMhlanga Hospital, a little more than two weeks after she was rescued from the bottom of a swimming pool on the North Coast of KwaZulu-Natal.

“Abongile had no pulse when she was brought out of the pool; we all got such a shock when we heard about it. We really thought we would lose our precious, only daughter,” said her relieved father, Isaiah Ndlovu. “We as a family are overjoyed that she is once again the happy, healthy child that we know and that we are able to take her home today.”

“I think it is only thanks to the wonderful care she received from lifesavers, paramedics and this hospital, that she survived,” said the father of two from Imbali. His daughter had been on holiday at the coast with her aunt when the incident occurred.

“Considering that she had no vital signs whatsoever when we first attended to her, Abongile has made a recovery that can only be described as remarkable,” said Gary Paul, the Netcare 911 regional operations and clinical manager, and one of the team of paramedics who raced to the scene on June 25, to attend to the little girl.

Paul said Abongile was rescued from the pool by lifesavers who commenced cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with the assistance of an off-duty doctor. The Netcare 911 team received a call at 2.50pm and were on scene within five minutes.

“We managed to regain a pulse. Abongile was then placed on a manual ventilator to stabilise blood circulation and the supply of oxygen to vital organs such as the brain. We then transported her by ambulance to the emergency department of uMhlanga Hospital. “Everyone involved in Abongile’s care, is delighted that she is able to return home in such good spirits today with her caring, supportive family,” he said.

Abongile Ndlovu (foreground) at Netcare uMhlanga Hospital shortly before her discharge. She is pictured with (from left to right) paediatrician, Dr Javeni Govender; her mother, Mrs Prudence Ndlovu; Netcare uMhlanga Hospital general manager, Marc van Heerden; her father, Mr Isaiah Ndlovu; paediatrician, Dr Raj Naranbhai; principal clinical manager of the hospital’s emergency department, Dr Bianca Visser; and emergency department nursing sister, Demi du Toit.

Paediatrician Dr Jevani Govender said she is most gratified that her young patient recovered so quickly. Govender, assisted by paediatrician Dr Raj Naranbhai, and anaesthesiologist, Dr Matt Gunning, stabilised Abongile into an induced coma. Gunning said that this form of artificial life support was used to give her heart, lungs and other organs time to recover from the trauma she had suffered.

“The next 24 hours proved to be critical, and we took turns to remain at her bedside throughout this period. Needless to say, we were delighted when Abongile started showing strong signs of recovery the very next day,” Gunning said.

Dr Bianca Visser, who was responsible for Abongile’s care the emergency department of uMhlanga Hospital reflects: “We were all astonished and greatly relieved when Abongile opened her eyes and squeezed her parents hands the morning after the incident. Although we knew that she was not out of danger yet after suffering such a trauma, it gave us all hope for her full recovery. She has done so in remarkably quick time.”

Visser says that this incident demonstrates how important it is for South Africans, and particularly parents and child minders, to learn at least the basic principles of CPR. She said that CPR is used when a person’s breathing has stopped and they have gone into cardiac arrest. “It keeps blood and oxygen circulating to the brain until emergency services personnel are able to assist and provide more advanced life support,”
she said.

Ndlovu was effusive in his praise for hospital general manager, Marc van Heerden, whom he now fondly calls the “Tall Man”. He says that Van Heerden got personally involved when Abongile was admitted, finding a way for her to be accommodated in the hospital’s paediatric intensive care unit. He said that the Tall Man was also most supportive throughout the family’s traumatic two-week experience.

He also expressed the family’s gratitude to the Netcare Foundation, which had covered the hospital’s costs, and to the doctors, radiology, pathology and other support services for providing their services pro bono. He said that the care and support that both Abongile and the family received throughout this time, “meant so much to us and we are not able to thank everyone enough".

Van Heerden praised all of those who had provided care and support to the little girl and her family. "We wish brave Abongile and her family farewell and all the very best for the future,” said Van Heerden.