The music lives on at Netcare Milpark Hospital’s Burns Unit

Specialists and hospital staff remembers the girl with the golden voice with admiration

Tuesday, June 20 2017

“We want Kechi Okwuchi to know that music is alive at Netcare Milpark Hospital’s burns unit where our nurses sing for the patients every morning.”

This is the message from Kechi’s former medical team at the Netcare Milpark Hospital burns unit, after they saw their much-loved ex-patient perform on America’s Got Talent this week.

The team of specialists at Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, who cared for Kechi 12 years ago after she survived an aircraft disaster in Nigeria, were deeply moved when they saw the video of her singing on America’s Got Talent. More than a decade later, most of the medical team members at Netcare Milpark Hospital’s burns unit whom Kechi remembers and mentions by name, are still working there.

Plastic and reconstructive surgeon, Dr Hugo Nel said that the doctors and nurses in the renowned level 1 trauma centre and only private burns unit in South Africa at Netcare Milpark Hospital remember Kechi and her tremendous courage and tenacity well.

“Kechi was a 16 year old schoolgirl when she arrived at Netcare Milpark Hospital on a mercy flight the day after the plane crash, with 65% burns to her body. She was in a critical condition. Even her eyelids were burnt and she later needed extensive reconstructive surgery. Kechi remained with us for more than seven months, from 11 December 2005 until July 2006,” remembers Dr Nel.

“It was just incredible to hear her sing and to see how far she has come since we last saw her. Many of our patients go on to rebuild their lives and that is a wonderful thing for us to see. The video of Kechi singing so beautifully will stay with me forever.

“Seeing her doing so well affirms our work and goes to show that there is always hope, even after such hardship and pain,” says Dr Nel.

Specialist physician, pulmonologist Dr Hussein Pahad openly admits to needing a handful of tissues after watching Kechi’s incredible performance on America’s Got Talent. It is his dearest wish that she will go on to win the competition.

“We are all rooting for our brave and remarkable Kechi. What an incredible come-back after suffering such trauma. We really hope that she will soon come and visit us and I will be writing to her asking for her to do just that.

“Because of the strong bonds that are forged during the traumatic time that serious burns victims experience, our patients often return to visit the unit and the staff, and for us that is always very special. It is what keeps us motivated to do this work,” says Dr Pahad.

Another of the specialists who cared for Kechi throughout her admission is Professor Frank Plani, nowadays a trauma surgeon at the accredited level 1 trauma centre at Netcare Union Hospital. He admitted and resuscitated Kechi upon her arrival at the hospital.

Prof Plani is also head of and the trauma director of the Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital and the co-chair of the Academic Division of Trauma Surgery at the University of the Witwatersrand.  

“Kechi was meant to go home for the school holidays when this terrible tragedy struck. One can only admire Kechi for all her tenacity and her achievements. It is truly gratifying to see her there on the stage. Hers is a tale of tenacity – and what an incredible talent she has!” he exclaims.

Kechi was one of two survivors of a plane crash 12 years ago on 10 December 2005 in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Last week she appeared on America's Got Talent where she mentioned how music helped her while being treated in the burns unit at Netcare Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa.  


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