Monday, January 7, 2008

2008. Apartheid Addington Hospital, 1988, Wheelchair Fall Brain Damage

At Koffiefontein Mine, I transferred to Industrial relations (IR). I administered consultative committees, and attended and administered disciplinary and grievance hearings, in an aggressive, hostile work environment, during States-of-Terror. Cyril Ramaphosa's National Union of Mineworkers called frequent bloody strikes, and deadlocked wage negotiations, often stirring violence and killings in SA.

Koffiefontein Mine was quiet, due to good IR and good job perks, but Tswana labourers toyi-toyied to work, making security (ex cops) nervous, while checking shotguns in their armoury. Black shop -stewards were often obstructive in their dealings with IR.

I was going nerve-deaf and considered returning to teaching. Jake was becoming too Afrikanerized, as there was no English kindergarten at Koffiefontein.

Addington's psychiatrist Dr. Luiz called Leah, Fraser's lawyer and me to a meeting. I didn't hear much, but Dr. Luiz said, "Fraser's condition is grave. He's brain-damaged. His legs are crippled, locked forward at the ankles, muscles wasted. His right hand's clawed and useless." Again Dr. Luiz didn't mention NMS.

Fraser slowly recovered. Using an overhead suspended chain and wooden handle, Fraser left-arm-hauled himself upright in bed. Nurses belted him into a wheelchair, wheeling him around. Fraser's crippled feet hung onto the floor, scraping his toes.

Six months after Fraser's Verulam road accident, a Zulu nurse-aide forgot to belt Fraser into his wheelchair. Fraser lurched forward, clouting his skull on the concrete floor. More stitches.

Responding to my Pig Dog questions about Fraser's wheelchair fall, Fraser's ward doctor picked his nails and said: "The wheelchair fall caused no skull fracture. Although a CT scan revealed brain atrophy, Fraser's mental prognosis is fair, due to Fraser's improved comprehension. Fraser needs an ankle operation to enable him to walk again. And Fraser's name is on a waiting list for Hillcrest Hospital."

"Did the drugs you fed Fraser cause more brain-damage?" I asked.

"No," lied the ward doctor, picking his nails. Regarding Fraser's mental health, for years I'd be caught between pricks of the old apartheid regime and spears of the new rainbow regime, who ignored, shunned and lied to me. The ward doctor didn't mention NMS.

"Fraser's been brain-damaged three times," I said, "by a Zulu sugarcane trucker; by neuroleptics causing NMS, fed to Fraser by white hospital staff; by a Zulu nurse-aide causing Fraser to fall from his wheelchair." The ward doctor stayed silent, picking his nails.

Belted into a wheelchair again, Fraser learned to wheel himself, and needed a leather glove to protect his right clawed hand.

Seven months after Fraser's Verulam road accident, a curator ad litem lawyer sent a fifteen page application to Durban Supreme Court, recommending that Fraser's lawyer be appointed Fraser's curator bonis. The curator ad litem had questioned hospital staff and Fraser, ascertaining Fraser's brain-damage and incapacity.

The curator ad litem had perused Fraser's hospital file, confirming that one day after Fraser's accident Fraser moved his limbs. Two weeks later, Fraser tried to talk. A week after that Fraser talked. Four weeks after the accident Fraser walked around the ward. Five weeks after the accident Fraser was stable and still walked around. Six weeks after the accident Fraser did not communicate. Foreshore did not record Fraser's seizures, thus duping the curator ad litem. I bet Addington professionals never mentioned NMS to the lawyer.

The curator ad litem was either complicit in the hospital's deceit, or stupid. He failed to ask doctors why Fraser had talked and walked soon after his coma, yet Fraser couldn't talk and walk six weeks after the accident.

When Fraser was well enough, surgeons hacked notches in Fraser's shortened, stiff Achilles tendons, normalizing his ankles. Both Fraser's bloody ankles were wrapped in plaster-of-Paris, setting the tendons.

On waking up, Fraser shivered and gibbered in pain.

After weeks of Addington induced pain, Fraser staggered about hospital on crutches, slowly learning to walk again. Only then did physiotherapists work on him. Fraser never walked properly again. He shambled.

Yet for a month after his coma, Fraser had walked well, all over Durban beach-front, with a hospital sign around his neck.

Dr. Luiz was all smiles. Matron glared, muttering, "Bed space."

Ten months after Fraser's Verulam road accident, before Durban Supreme Court appointed the curator bonis, Fraser's lawyer was concerned that Addington professionals were pressurizing him to find permanent accommodation for Fraser, away from Addington Hospital.

"Hospital staff shun Leah and me," I said, "preferring to contact you. Perhaps Addington's worried we'll query Fraser's NMS."

Over the years Fraser's curator bonis contacted various organizations, searching for suitable accommodation for Fraser. Fraser's lawyer more than earned the annual fee Durban Supreme Court allowed him to charge Fraser's estate.

What to do with Fraser?

No way could my crippled, brain-damaged, 35 year old brother live with us. I couldn't expect my wife Leah to bring up our kids and nurse Fraser, whom she hardly knew.

A white Addington social worker said, "Fraser will become a drunk, schizophrenic hobo!"

"How can Fraser become a drunk, schizophrenic hobo, after being brain damaged by a sugarcane truck, and after Addington caused NMS, crippling Fraser, and after Addington dropped Fraser out of his wheelchair onto his head?"

Silent social worker. She was thick! In my years of dealings with white, Indian and Zulu social workers, I never encountered any male social workers in KwaZulu-Natal.

Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Blogger's View on Winnie Mandela, Apartheid Social Worker.

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