A miracle birthday after near drowning

Prayers answered as lucky Lucas makes a full recovery

Wednesday, May 10 2023

Drowning can happen in a moment, in a swimming pool, bath, or in as little as 2.5cm of water. Chantelle Bothma lived every parent’s worst nightmare when she found her toddler floating lifelessly in the pool. After a mammoth fight for survival involving teamwork from healthcare teams at two hospitals and the critical helicopter medical transfer between the facilities, Lucas will celebrate his second birthday on 19 May.

“Lucas is a miracle child; I will never forget him. Neurologically, we were very worried about Lucas as it wasn’t clear how long he was in the water, and he had to be resuscitated several times. In the end, all our prayers were answered, and he came through it all,” says Dr Palesa Monyake, paediatric intensivist practising at Netcare Garden City Hospital.  

“On 28 December, I was making Lucas a bottle and talking to my daughter. I did not think he could open the big heavy gate in the kitchen – there was no reason to think he wasn’t safe,” Chantelle recalls.

Bothma Family and Lucas Bothma: Lucas Bothma will celebrate his 2nd birthday on 19 May, after making an incredible recovery from a near drowning. He is pictured here with his sister Claire and mother Chantelle.

“A moment later I looked for him and thought he was with my mother. Then I saw the gate was slightly open. I found him floating face down in the pool. I thought he was gone. I was beside myself. My first reaction was to shout out to God for His help. We rushed Lucas to the local hospital in Emalahleni while I did CPR but there was no life. I just prayed,” she says.

“The doctors at Cosmos Hospital resuscitated Lucas and although he was not breathing for himself. They prepared us that there could be brain damage and referred him to Netcare Garden City Hospital for the specialised care he needed,” Chantelle says.

A Netcare 911 Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) interhospital air transfer was arranged. Part of the team caring for Lucas on the flight was HEMS emergency care practitioner Sabrina Albertyn.

“There is such limited space in the air ambulance, and we must be prepared for all emergencies, especially when moving a critical patient,” Albertyn says.

“We shared our ventilation strategies, the medication Lucas had received and everything the team needed to know to allow them to seamlessly continue his care at a higher scope of practice when the helicopter landed at Netcare Garden City Hospital.

“Lucas was on maximum respiratory therapy as he was not breathing on his own. From the pool water in his lungs, he had severe aspiration pneumonia. We were also worried about hypoxia to the brain and the potential for brain damage given that his air supply had been cut off for an uncertain length of time,” Dr Monyake says.



Lucas was placed under neuroprotection, which includes keeping the person in a medically induced coma and with targeted temperature control, reducing brain metabolism to protect the brain. His mother spent every possible moment at the hospital, praying.

“It was very scary seeing my son in the unfamiliar ICU environment. The nursing sisters reassured me and explained that this is normal in the ICU to give him the best possible chance of recovery,” Chantelle says.

“Lucas did not have an easy path. We resuscitated him twice in the Paediatric ICU and we thought we were going to lose him. Our paediatric ICU nurses are incredible, we are like a family and our patients become part of our family. Each one of our nurses is a pillar of strength, but united, they are a force to be reckoned with. Even when I am not physically at my patient’s bedside, the nurses are my eyes and ears 24/7 and they keep me constantly updated,” Dr Monyake adds.

“Chantelle and her mother had such amazing faith throughout. Even though by then I had to hand Lucas’s care over to a colleague, we were so invested in the child’s outcome. We prayed together that the results of the MRI would come back normal – lo and behold, it did. A few days later, he had an electroencephalogram [EEG] to check the electrical activity of his brain. Again, the results came back normal – confirming he would make a full recovery, which really did not seem possible just a week before.”

Albertyn says, “Lucas’s mom’s knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR] certainly helped his survival. All parents and caregivers should learn CPR to be prepared for such an emergency. Have the phone numbers for emergency medical services, such as Netcare 911 on 082 911, written down in easy to find places, and saved in your cell phone.”

Chantelle says her son has made a full recovery and has a love of gospel music. “God was really there for us. We could not have asked for better doctors and nurses, and we are so humbly grateful for their hard work. Today Lucas is running and playing like there has never been anything wrong with him. I am so grateful for the doctors and nurses, as well as the flight team for looking after him so well.”


Notes to editor
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