Seven-year-old Abongile delighted to go home after near drowning in North Coast pool

Prompt CPR and emergency care saved Pietermaritzburg girl, say doctors

Thursday, July 12 2018

‘Miracle child’, 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.”

Pic: 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.

“I think it is only thanks to the wonderful care she received after the incident from lifesavers, the Netcare 911 paramedics who attended to her, and this hospital, that she survived,” added the father of two from Imbali, Pietermaritzburg, who said that 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,” observes Gary Paul, the Netcare 911 regional operations and clinical manager, and one of the team of paramedics who raced to the scene of the incident on 25 June, to attend to the little girl.

According to Paul, Abongile was rescued from the pool by lifesavers who immediately commenced cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) with the assistance of an off-duty doctor. The Netcare 911 team received a call at 14:50 reporting the incident, and were on scene within five minutes to take over her care.

“We managed to regain a pulse after CPR and advanced life support care. Abongile was then placed on a manual ventilator and inotrope support, which we use to stabilise blood circulation and the supply of oxygen to vital organs such as the brain, and transport her by ambulance to the emergency department of Netcare uMhlanga Hospital.

“Everyone at Netcare 911 and Netcare uMhlanga Hospital who were involved in Abongile’s care, are absolutely delighted that she is able to return home in such good spirits today with her caring, supportive family,” he adds.

Dr Jevani Govender, the paediatrician who was largely responsible for Abongile’s care while she was in hospital, says that she is most gratified that her young patient recovered so quickly. “This experience once more highlights the importance of teamwork and a prompt and appropriate continuum of medical care following an incident of this nature,” she adds.

“The fact that Abongile received CPR from the time when she was first taken from the pool by lifesavers and was then able to receive outstanding care from the Netcare 911 advanced life support paramedics at the poolside, made all the difference. Abongile also received superb further medical care at the Netcare uMhlanga Hospital emergency department before being transferred to the intensive care unit at the facility,” she explains. 

“This teamwork and chain of care was critical in Abongile’s rapid and complete recovery,” observes Dr Govender, who was assisted in providing care to Abongile by fellow paediatrician, Dr Raj Naranbhai.

The assistance of anaesthesiologist, Dr Matt Gunning, was elicited once Abongile had been stabilised to induce a coma and take control of all the young patient’s bodily functions. He said that this form of artificial life support was used to give Abongile’s 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,” recalls Dr Gunning.

“We are most thankful to all of the doctors and nurses, the Netcare 911 team, the hospital manager, as well as all of the many other people who have helped us through this most difficult time,” said Mr Ndlovu. “In fact, I do not have the words to describe how grateful we are to them all; it has meant so much to us and we as a family are now weeping tears of happiness.”

Dr Bianca Visser, an emergency medicine practitioner who practises at the emergency department of Netcare uMhlanga Hospital and was responsible for Abongile’s initial emergency care at the facility, was also impressed by the dedication and commitment shown by the team involved in both the rescue and in further care.

“We were all astonished and greatly relieved when Abongile opened her eyes and squeezed her parents hands the morning after the incident,” she reflects. “Although we knew that she was not out of danger yet after suffering such a trauma to her system, it gave us all hope for her full recovery. She has done so in remarkably quick time.”

Dr 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 explains 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 the patient and provide more advanced life support,” she observes.

Mr Ndlovu was effusive in his praise for the general manager of the hospital, 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 associated with Abongile’s care, 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.”

The Netcare Foundation, which is governed by a board of trustees and was established in 2010, is registered as a public benefit company. In partnership with various organisations and healthcare practitioners, it has assisted many South Africans with treatable medical conditions through its CSI programmes.

Van Heerden praised all of those who had provided care and support to Abongile and her family, “from the lifesavers who started CPR and the Netcare 911 call taker who received the emergency call and dispatched the paramedics, to the Netcare 911 paramedics and the doctors, nursing staff and all other support services at the hospital who did such a remarkable job”.

“The hospital and its staff are celebrating Abongile’s recovery from her ordeal and that she is able to go home today. We were deeply concerned about her when she was first admitted and are thankful that such a wonderful outcome was achieved. We wish brave Abongile and her family farewell and all the very best for the future,” concludes Van Heerden.


Issued by:         MNA on behalf of Netcare uMhlanga Hospital and Netcare 911
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville and Estene Lotriet-Vorster
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]