As medical professionals, we are encouraged to be objective. We base our treatments and professional opinions on science, research and statistics. Sometimes, however, it becomes almost impossible to remain impartial. This was the case with my little patient, Janlo Rademeyer, who made a miraculous recovery after nearly drowning at home.
Janlo is a vibrant three-year-old toddler who loves exploring. Due to his curiosity, he wandered off to the pool of his Centurion home on the day of the accident on 19 May 2020. His older brother found him unresponsive in the pool and shouted to his mother, Carin, for help. Carin raised the alarm, and soon neighbours arrived and rushed Janlo to the nearby critical care command centre.
According to Carin, Janlo required approximately 40 minutes of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) before his heart started beating again. Janlo was flown via helicopter to Garden City Hospital in Johannesburg and required full resuscitation, intubation and ventilation in the intensive care unit (ICU). The brave toddler spent the next couple of weeks in ICU fighting for his life.
Beating the odds, Janlo slowly improved and he was able to come off life support and breathe on his own. In June he was finally stable enough to be transferred to Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital in Auckland Park.
My first impressions were that Janlo was a beautiful young boy, but he appeared confused and agitated. At the time his little body was in constant motion and his arms and legs were moving up and down. He could not focus on my face, and he did not smile or talk. Janlo had a gastrostomy tube (“PEG”) in his stomach which was used for feeding. He was unable to sit or stand. I remember that he cried when I tried to pick him up.
Janlo’s clinical presentation did not surprise me. He was a somewhat “typical” example of the type children I see in my practice. In 2020, I have, so far, treated three (3) children that sustained some degree of brain injury after a non-fatal drowning accident. According to Statistics South Africa, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional death in children. Survivors often suffer from permanent brain damage. Janlo was one of the lucky ones.
He received intensive rehabilitation since his admission – including physiotherapy, occupational and speech-language therapy. The dietician and social worker also saw him. Within the first two to three weeks, Janlo started improving. He seemed to improve by leaps and bounds almost every week. To add insult to injury, his parents could not initially visit him due to the national lockdown. When the regulations were relaxed, they could see him for a few hours a day. Both his parents could not believe the progress he had made. “We stood in amazement every day for the little bits of hope God planted in our hearts,” Carin said.
By his fifth week in rehab, Janlo started walking. He also started feeding orally, smiling and saying words. After three (3) months in the rehab, on 28 August, Janlo finally went home. I must say I was a little bit sad to see him go.
His physiotherapist, Charne, had the following to say about him: “Janlo is an incredible little superhero who fought all odds. Now that he is discharged, I miss the way he used to run to us as we walked into the ward and gave us all big hugs. He was a pleasure to work with, but when you see how incredible his family is, you wouldn’t expect anything different.”
I recently spoke to Dr G. Lamb, Janlo’s paediatric neurologist who saw him on 28 September. Dr Lamb believes Janlo has made a full recovery and only had one thing to say: “It is a miracle!”
When I reflect on this experience, I can’t help but think of one of my favourite quotes by Albert Einstein: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I can’t wait to continue witnessing miracles in my practice.