When Elandspoort, Pretoria West, mother Caroline Viviers went to wake her sick 13-year-old daughter to take her to hospital on Thursday, she found the child cold and stiff in her bed, her lifeless eyes open and staring.
Shocked by the discovery that the teenager was dead, Viviers started screaming. Her cries caught the attention of several people in the Pretoria West suburb, who all rushed to find out what was wrong.
The dead child, also named Caroline Viviers but known by her nickname “Poppy”, was thought to have been pregnant, although her mother was reluctant to divulge details about the situation.
Viviers had last spoken to Poppy at about midnight when the girl had woken up to go to the toilet. She had fallen asleep earlier, apparently in a lot of pain. “I was worried and couldn’t sleep properly. I asked her how she was and if she wanted to eat or drink something, but she said no.”
The teenager hadn’t eaten all day, her last meal having been early on Tuesday before she took ill and complained of stomach cramps and nausea.
The girl had become lethargic and refused to eat, prompting Viviers to take her to the Pretoria West Hospital on Wednesday morning. By that stage Poppy could hardly stand up straight and said the pain had intensified.
She was examined by a doctor at the hospital, and cried out when he probed her lower abdomen.
The doctor asked her for a urine sample and also drew blood before sending Poppy and her mother back home.
They were told to return for the test results on Thursday and paracetamol and nausea tablets were prescribed for her in the meantime.
“She could hardly walk out of the hospital, she was bent over double,” Viviers said. Poppy took a nausea tablet when they got home and went to her bedroom to lie down. Just before (7am Thursday), I went in to wake her up so we could go to the hospital, but when I touched her, she was lifeless.”
Tshwane Child Welfare officer Connie de Bruin said the girl’s death was a shock.
“Poppy was so alive at the beginning of the week. How could she just die?” De Bruin said.
De Bruin and the family questioned the attention Poppy had received at the hospital.
“Surely a 13-year-old with stomach cramps, whether pregnant or not, should have been given more medical attention – a drip, an X-ray, admission,” she said.
But the hospital’s acting superintendent Dr Hanlie Dafel said the girl had been given as much attention as her condition warranted.
“There was nothing that presented as a major concern other than the nausea and abdominal pain. The signs we look for to determine emergency were not present.”
A pregnancy test done was negative, and advice on how to prevent getting dehydrated was given, Dafel said.
A post-mortem would shed light on the cause of death, because all danger signs and anything that could have warranted that she be admitted or given further medical treatment were absent, she said.
But the family on Thursday felt their little girl had been allowed to deteriorate and die. “They sent her away to die instead of investigating the cause of her pain,” her mother said.
Viviers’s sister Charmain Vermaak went to the hospital to find out why doctors had not picked up what was wrong with Poppy and why she had died before finding out her test results.
She felt negligence had played a major part in the girl’s death.