A little girls journey of healing and recovery at St Joseph’s Home

Several years ago, four year old Makanakah sustained 80% hot water burns across her tiny body. While playing with the other children at home, she fell into a bathtub of boiling water. She spent weeks in the Burns Unit at RXH receiving numerous skin grafts and transplants. Makanakah transferred to St Joseph’s in July 2015 for nursing and rehabilitation. At the time, she had developed severe contractures at her shoulder, elbows, hands, hips and knees. She also had significant scarring on her face and body. She arrived at St Joseph’s covered in bandages and afraid of any person in uniform.

While at St Joseph’s, her nursing care consisted of wound care, massaging of the skin to keep it moist and flexible, in addition to the routine care of assisting her with bathing, brushing her teeth, eating and dressing herself. She was unable to do any of these activities herself.

According to the physiotherapist who treated her, Makanakah would initially pretend she was sleeping when she was collected for therapy sessions. Stretching was painful, but essential to preserve function. She would only allow scar tissue massage and as soon as she was expected to do anything functional, she would scream and cry continuously. One day, they had a breakthrough when they incorporated the pasting of stickers on a board into therapy sessions. She loved the stickers and soon forgot that she was supposed to be sleeping! Playing with the different colour stickers was the start of her recovery.

After about a year and a half, Makanakah improved so much that she was discharged from Physio. Up until her final departure from St Joseph’s, she would still seek out therapy, even though she knew that she no longer needed it.

The Occupational Therapist reports that Makanakah was unable to dress herself, do up buttons and zips and  turn door handles, or open and close taps. She struggled to hold a spoon and needed to be fed. She could not hold a pencil  or crayon and activities such as cutting with scissors requiring the use of both hands were extremely difficult. She also struggled to socialise with other children due to her physical appearance and psychological scars.

She progressed so well that in her activities of daily living that she was able to dress herself, tie shoelaces and do up buckles! She attended school on our premises which helped her to socialise and feel accepted. Her handwriting and cutting skills improved significantly.

Her social worker counselled her mother and together with the multidisciplinary team prepared her for her child’s return home and future care needs. Support structures were put in place and school placement organised. The case was also referred to Community Health Workers for follow up after discharge to ensure her continued well-being.

After her discharge home, Makanakah continued her education at our Special Needs school on the premises where her well-being is monitored and she continues to receive occupational therapy.

Eight year old Makanakah (in the picture with  her Mom) has  transformed from a scared, tearful little child, to an assertive, lively and socially confident young girl, despite her severe burns and physical limitations.