Team effort saves curious child’s arm after accident with mincer

Emergency Services and specialists at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital team up for unusual operation

Thursday, April 16 2015

A four-year-old boy, whose childlike curiosity led to an accident involving a mincing machine, is recovering well at home thanks to the efforts of a team of emergency workers and specialists at Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital.

The little boy, Tristan Cloete, was exploring the workings of the electronic mincer at his home in Atlantis, Cape Town, when his hand became stuck in the machine, to his mother’s horror. The incident occurred on the afternoon of Easter Monday.

Tristan’s mother, Melanie Cloete, says the family immediately raced the child, with his hand still stuck in the machine, to Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital for emergency care.

“We were just praying and praying that he would not lose his hand,” she recalls.

At the hospital’s emergency department, anaesthetist Dr Ledine du Preez realised that the removal of the mincing machine would require highly specialised skills. Fortunately she knew just the person who would be able to access the necessary resources, thanks to his years of experience in fire and rescue services nationally.

That man was her husband, chief director of disaster management and fire brigade services for the Western Cape Colin Deiner, who immediately mobilised members of the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Service, the provincial Medical Emergency Transport and Rescue Organisation and an emergency doctor from the provincial health department, Dr Wayne Smith.

Deiner says: “They all came to Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital and we spoke to plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr Liezl du Toit, who was attending to Tristan. The little patient had to be anaesthetised and was taken into the operating theatre.”

Dr Du Toit notes that it was extremely fortuitous that the husband and wife, with their different specialities, were on hand for this particularly complex case.

According to Dr Du Preez, Tristan was in shock but surprisingly calm even before she administered the anaesthetic. “While his mother was holding his hand he was calm, but if she moved away he would start getting upset,” she says.

Dr Du Toit remarks that Tristan’s case was complicated by the fact that the solid bimetal machine stuck on his arm meant that X-rays could not show the extent of the damage. “You know that the little boy is hurt but have no idea how bad the injury is,” she said.

To enable the specialists to assess the extent of Tristan’s injury, the team of several emergency personnel had to use reciprocating saws to carefully cut the machine off of his arm. Cutting through metal causes heat, and so water had to be constantly sprayed on the site to avoid burning Tristan’s arm while the mincer was being cut away.

“After about two hours we were able to release his arm,” Deiner says.

Dr Du Toit remarks that it is extremely unusual for emergency workers to be present in an operating theatre, and that the team performed their work with great precision so as to prevent further injury to Tristan.

Dr Du Toit and orthopaedic surgeon, Dr André Heyns, then meticulously cleaned the area as any residue would increase the chance of infection, and thereafter carefully closed the wounds.

“None of us could have done the procedure alone, it was an absolute team effort,” Dr Du Toit says, describing the emergency workers as “real heroes”.

Tristan was discharged on Friday, 10 April, and is now recovering at home, but is getting impatient to have his plaster cast removed. “We are having a little bit of trouble trying to keep him still, he just wants to play but the cast is still fully intact,” his mother says.

She extended her heartfelt thanks to all those who did not hesitate to help Tristan in the family’s hour of need. “Tristan tells me, ‘My hand is going to be fine’. That’s how positive he is. As for the rest of the family, we are all just praying that he will have full use of his hand when he recovers,” she adds.



Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Blaauwberg Hospital
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Sarah Wilson or Meggan Saville
Telephone: (011) 469 3016
Email: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]