On 18 June 2020, Mr RK’s (30) life changed forever. He was working on the side of the N4 highway when a truck lost control and crashed into the median barricade, crushing him in the process.
He lost two colleagues as a consequence. Mr RK, who suffered a crushed right leg, multiple broken ribs, punctured lungs, a broken right wrist, broken right hip and a broken left knee, was rushed to Netcare Milpark Hospital. He spent many weeks in the intensive care unit (ICU), where he underwent numerous operations to fix his broken bones.
Unfortunately, his right leg could not be saved and had to be amputated below the knee. It required a team of specialists to look after him – including a trauma surgeon, orthopaedic surgeon, physician and neurologist. He was finally stable enough to be transferred to our rehabilitation facility on 12 August 2020.
What I remember from meeting Mr RK the first time, was how miserable he looked. He was in agonising pain, and he could not walk. He could not even straighten or bend his left leg for me to examine it properly.
Our amazing multidisciplinary team comprising a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, dietician, psychologist, social worker, and prosthetist sprang into action and started intensive rehabilitation. It was a slow, tedious process, and Mr RK often looked like he just wanted to give up. On more than one occasion, he begged us to discharge him so that he could go home in a wheelchair. Luckily, we convinced him to stay and on until 28 October leaving with a walking frame.
Mr RK returned to us in January 2021. I almost did not recognise him! He was groomed to a “T”, smiling and walking with two crutches. He reported that most of his pain was gone, and I could reduce all his pain medications by more than 50 percent. It was a new man standing in front of me when he was fitted with his custom-made, brand new prosthetic leg. He looked so confident strolling down the passage with that leg. I really could not believe how far he had come.
Reflecting on Mr RK’s success story, it struck me just how many experts it required to put one man “back together”. There was simply no way to achieve this level of success without the input of so many different team members.
A month after we discharged Mr RK from the hospital, we presented his case at a mortality and morbidity meeting (M&M) as one of our “good news” stories. I asked Mr RK if he could write to us about his experience, and this is what he said:
“I am RK, and this is the story of my life. The people at rehab taught me how to do everything for myself, including washing myself, preparing a meal, and walking. Theytaught me how to live a normal life again. I am so proud of them. May God bless them.”