At the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, a child with burns over 40% of their body has an 80-90% chance of survival, where elsewhere in the country, their chance is very slim.
Understandably this is a major concern for Dr Roux Martinez, Medical Officer of the only specialised Paediatric Burns Unit in Africa, and she believes that the pioneering work done by Prof Heinz Rode and the level of intensive care in the Hospital can be emulated elsewhere in the country to save more precious children’s lives.
“When I was 6 years old, my surgeon grandfather sat with me on the stoep with Grays Anatomy (book), his old surgical instruments from the cellar and a dead rat we picked up in the garden, which we carefully dissected comparing the human and rat anatomy. I was hooked, never to be cured again. Burn care is often considered the Cinderella of surgery. When done properly in an enabling environment, Cinderella sure takes the crown!
Dr Roux Martinez admits to balancing work-life and family rather poorly. An ill child will always win. As burn-care is a 24 hour-a-day commitment, sacrifices are part of the deal. She intends to write a book on the practical aspects of paediatric burn care. “The what-to-do stuff you need to know at the bedside in the middle of the night – which no book teaches you.”
Children display all the best aspects of being human. Instead of the adult response of “why me; why now?” they accept their injuries with courage, optimism and a fervent urgency to get better! A miracle you can never grow tired of.”
As one person I cannot change all healthcare but I can do miracles for one child at a time. The Children’s Hospital Trust has shown us for many years that by bringing together willing and kind individuals, many thousands of children from the poorest communities can receive the best burn care possible – burn care that saves lives.”