More than a year ago, Hakim (3 yr.) suffered severe brain injury after falling into the family’s swimming pool. Here his mom, Tasneem, shares the touching story of his recovery.
“His vibrant eyes and infectious smile make it hard to tell that he’s suffered so much.
Since his birth in 2016, Hakim was always an entertaining baby and quite advanced for his age. At the age of two he could navigate a cell phone on his own. He had so many toys but never bothered with it because he was obsessed with “driving” his toy car and talking on his cell phone. It was more a case of two going on twenty!
But it took one accident – a split second of diverting our attention – to change our lives forever.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in October last year and Hakim was as active as ever, running around the house and asking whoever he could to blow up his inflatable ball. Few seconds later Hakim was quiet and we started looking for him.
I frantically rushed around the house, running from the front yard to the back, in search of Hakim. Little did I know Hakim had been laying breathless in the pool, which I had hurried past. I was filled with such dread I failed to notice.
Fortunately, my sister discovered him and immediately jumped in. She lifted his tiny body out and passed him to my mom. My mom did everything in her power to resuscitate him by performing CPR, even though she had no knowledge or experience on how to do it.
Minutes passed and our attempts were futile, so I called the neighbour to ask for help. He too became disheartened when there was no pulse, but my sister refused to accept it.
She hurriedly fetched the car to transport him to the Netcare N1 City Hospital. As we drove my mother continued performing CPR.
After what felt like an eternity we finally arrived at the hospital. In less than 10 minutes the casualty staff – under the supervision of Dr Malan – had found a pulse. Hakim, still unconscious, was immediately transferred to The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
At Red Cross, I was stunned by the staff’s lack of empathy. Hakim was practically raised by my mom, dad, sister and brother, so they took his accident especially hard. My mom refused to leave his bed side, staying throughout the day and sleeping over at night. She explained to the hospital staff that she suffered from arthritis, but they did nothing to make her stay a bit more comfortable.
For three days Hakim was kept in a medically induced coma. The unsurety of whether he would wake up and what condition he’d be in made it the worst and longest three days of my life.
Eventually they slowly started to wake him up.
After day five he was moved from the Intensive Care Unit to a medical ward.
This is where the horror started.
Hakim would often be deprived of his medication and when we raised the issue with personnel, they brushed us off.
One day Hakim’s body turned completely blue. I called one of the nurses, but she did nothing. I ran out to call the doctor, who then asked me to wait outside.
From there things went downhill.
Hakim started having seizures. It continued throughout the day and night. I asked the doctor if there was a diagnosis we could work with but he reassured me they were trying.
Through research of our own, we discovered that spasms are common in children with near-drowning experiences.
Three weeks later we received the devastating news: Hakim had suffered severe brain injury from a lack of oxygen. It’s the reason his body went blue.
The doctor warned he would never be able to communicate or do anything for himself again. My mom was in pieces. I refused to accept the prognosis. From that point on Hakim deteriorated and lost a lot of weight.
No social worker contacted the family to help deal with trauma. Once again, we were left to pick up the pieces.
Hakim was eventually transferred back to N1 City hospital. There a feeding peg was inserted, and the spasms subsided miraculously. An amazing group of therapists and physios came on board and in less than a week Hakim showed improvement.
The best part of our stay at N1 City was not the medication or staff, but the faith they had in Hakim’s recovery process. Not once did they mention the impossible. They continuously built up the expectation within us of great things to come.
After two months he was flown to Netcare Rehabilitation Hospital in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, where he spent the rest of his recovery until it was time to come home.
We were so excited to have our baby back!
It’s been more than a year since that day and while the damage to Hakim’s well-being is still evident, his recovery continues to astound us every day.
He can communicate with sounds and is fully conscious and alert. He makes his likes and dislikes known with emotions.
He still has therapy every day and has a full-time day carer who sees to him from Monday to Friday. We do:
- Hyperbaric oxygen
- Physio therapy once a week
- Occupational therapy once a week
- Speech therapy once a week
- Stem cell treatment – still need to do more
My little boy is full of life and by far the strongest person I have ever met.”
Follow Surviving Little Sailor on Facebook for live updates on his progress and journey.
Fundraising for Abdul Hakim Swartz
You can help by supporting our fundraising initiative to help cover Hakim`s ongoing medical expenses – together we can change his world, one bracelet at a time!
Little Sailor Bracelets for Hakim; consisting of navy, red and white wooden beads with crystals – and a sail boat, steering wheel, or anchor charm. To place an order, contact the agent in your area or shop online. Alternatively, please consider a donation; any and all donations welcome.