August marks both Women’s Month and Child Safety Month and in the spotlight is paediatric surgeon Professor Heloise Buys. She shares that there is nothing more rewarding than watching one of her adolescent patients recover and make it into adulthood.
“It’s always a huge relief in the emergency room when the patients stabilise and we can send them on to the next ward or ICU knowing that they’ve turned the corner and will continue to get better,” Buys confides.
Buys is head of the ambulatory and emergency services unit at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town.
“I have the privilege of looking after the health and emergency medical needs of children. What a privilege! They just are different and unlike adults.
“People often make the mistake of treating them like tiny adults, but they’re not. They are growing and developing their bodies and personalities and constantly changing (adults simply grow old!),” explains Buys.
Buys joined the registrar training programme at the hospital in 1997 after completing her studies in Zimbabwe, working in the United Kingdom for six years and then returning to South Africa.
“I was in need of a job and someone suggested I try Cape Town. I was in Limpopo living on the farm with my extended family. I couldn’t believe my luck [when she was accepted to the Red Cross programme] and the rest is history!” she says.
The scariest moment of her career
August is Women’s Month and Child Safety Month, and Health For Mzansi is celebrating the women in paediatric care who are at the coalface when things go wrong.
Buys describes the resuscitation of a new-born baby, who had been badly injured a few years ago, as the scariest moment of her career. It will forever be etched into her mind.
“It was one of the scariest resuscitations I’ve helped with in the trauma unit – an abandoned new-born baby had been badly injured and was bleeding out.
“There was a team of doctors working over him and I joined in the fight to save his life,” she explains.
“We managed to stabilise him just long enough for him to be rushed to theatre to close all the wounds. The surgeons did an amazing job.
“It really was touch and go in the ICU as well for a while, but he survived and recovered. In that time. one of his nurses fell in love with him and couldn’t bear the thought that he had no mother to love and hold him. She put up her hand, opened her heart and fostered him.
“He’s done so well under her loving care. He still has to attend some clinics here as some of the injuries caused him lasting problems – but he knows he is loved and he’s very happy.”
A paediatrician shares her most important tips
When asked for her most important child safety advice, Buys says the following:
Never let them out of your sight, not even for a minute while they are young and you are supposed to be watching them. If anyone has young children in the house, look around and see what possible dangers there are and immediately take action to remove all dangers. Unattended buckets with water are death traps for babies and toddlers.
Drivers, please drive carefully. Be on the lookout for young children along the roadside. They have no wisdom when they are tiny and need you to look out for them. They could easily dart out after a ball, so slow down! If you have any children in your vehicle, please make sure they are buckled up or in a car seat if they’re small.
Make sure ALL medication is far out of reach and out of sight of young children. They, too, want to taste those tablets they see adults taking. We see too many accidental poisonings!