Little girl’s healing story launches R122m emergency unit makeover
Camilla, who had surgery to remove a brain tumour at a Cape Town hospital, shared her story at the sod-turning ceremony
When Camilla Guti started having headaches and vomiting about a year ago, her mother simply gave her pain tablets.
It was the start of a traumatic journey that had a happy ending, and which culminated in the seven-year-old’s starring role on Tuesday at a red-letter day for Red Cross Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.
When Camilla’s headaches intensified and she had a fall at school, mother Samantha Hangaika began a series of medical appointments that took the little girl to the emergency unit at Red Cross in August 2018.
Within an hour she was diagnosed with a brain tumour the size of a golf ball, and doctors decided they needed to operate urgently to relieve the pressure on her brain.
“I was about to have a job interview when I got a frantic call from the hospital that I must be there within an hour or let my mother sign for an urgent surgery,” said Hangaika.
“I knew something was seriously wrong and got so nervous about the emergency operation that I went weak on my knees and for a few minutes I couldn’t walk.”
The benign tumour was removed, and on Tuesday the Grade 2 pupil from Delta Primary School in Retreat shared her story with Western Cape health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo and guests who attended a sod-turning ceremony to mark the R122m upgrade of the emergency unit.
Trauma unit head Prof Sebastian van As said the two-year project would result in more efficient and effective medical care for the numerous children in need of life-saving treatment at the hospital.
The emergency and trauma resuscitation centres would be close to each other and the emergency centre would have full-body and CT scanners, removing the need for patients to be wheeled around the hospital to its radiology section.
Having these services in different parts of the hospital resulted in “all kinds of complications”, said Van As.
“When emergency patients are wheeled around complications happen and things such as oxygen can be disconnected or a catheter can come out. When you have everything under one roof we can eliminate such problems,” he said.
Instead of burn patients having to be washed and disinfected at the burns unit, far away from the emergency unit, the new unit will have its own burn and decontamination rooms. It will also have a child protection room for victims of sexual violence, a family counselling room and calm room, and a lift directly to operating theatres and the intensive care unit.
Van As said currently patients who needed to be taken to theatres or the ICU were wheeled into public lifts, which was “not ideal”.
Dr Heloise Buys, who heads the medical resuscitation unit, said her staff were struggling to cope.
“At times we have to place two children on one resuscitation bed. Clearly this hampers our ability to provide true patient-centred care,” she said.“Responding to this challenge involves improving the space and layout of the unit. This will make a huge impact on the efficiency and patient-centred experience and will allow us as emergency care providers to operate within the parameters and standards of the department of health.”Chantel Cooper, chief executive of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust – the fundraising arm of the hospital – said that so far R41.9m had been raised for the upgrade. The total cost of the building is estimated to be R102m, and equipment will cost R20m.