Miracle at Home: Mother's CPR Save Toddler from Near-Drowning Tragedy
Photo CRed: Dr Palesa Monyake and Sekani | Supplied

A mother’s swift CPR action and a dedicated medical team’s intervention miraculously save 18-month-old Sekani from a near-drowning incident, showcasing the power of preparedness and teamwork in the face of tragedy.


South Africa (24 November 2023) – A toddler has made a full recovery after a near-fatal drowning thanks to his mother’s knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and professional, caring medical teamwork.

The incident unfolded on Tuesday, 21 November 2023, when Sekani was found in the family’s pool, a situation that could have turned tragic if not for the quick response and presence of mind displayed by his mother, Thandokazi Nzima.

“Our children, their cousin, and some friends were playing far away from our new pool. When one of them came inside looking for a plaster, Sekani must have been trying to follow her,” explains Mrs Nzima.

The sudden cry for help from a neighbour’s child alerted Mrs Nzima to the emergency. Acting swiftly, she performed CPR on her son, drawing on her training as a mining engineer.

“It was such a shock that my sense of time became completely distorted. I was praying and praying as I ran to where she had pulled my boy out of the water and, through prayer, I became calm and was able to start performing CPR.”

“I am a mining engineer, and although I attended CPR training, I’ve never had to perform it on a person – let alone my own son. I had to adjust the pressure for such a young child, and I wasn’t sure if I should interrupt CPR to turn him over. It was a frightening situation as a mother,” she says.

A neighbour called Netcare 911 for emergency medical assistance, and the Emergency Operations Centre helped coach Mrs Nzima on what to do for her 18-month-old son until help could arrive on the scene at their home near Silver Lakes in Pretoria East.

“Eventually, he coughed and showed signs of life. It didn’t take long for the ambulance to arrive, and it was as if everything came together to save Sekani,” she says.

“By the grace of God, there is a cul-de-sac right outside our house where the helicopter could easily land. My heart stood still as I saw my son being loaded into the helicopter,” recalls Mrs Nzima, highlighting the critical role of the Netcare 911 helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) in Sekani’s journey to recovery.

Netcare 911 intermediate life support practitioner, Wikus de Jager, emphasises the pivotal role of Mrs Nzima’s CPR in Sekani’s survival. He encourages everyone to learn basic CPR, emphasising its potential to save lives in unforeseen circumstances.

“Arriving to find that Sekani was breathing was a relief, although he was not breathing as well as we would have liked,” Wikus de Jager says.

The journey to recovery involved a collaborative effort from the Netcare 911 ground crew, ambulance, helicopter medics, and the specialised care provided by the Netcare Waterfall City Hospital team. The pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) team, led by Sr Jabulile Nxumalo, played a crucial role in supporting the parents through the uncertainty of their child’s condition.

Sekani’s sister, Asante, expressed her relief and joy at her brother’s return home, saying, “I felt sad when Sekani was in the hospital, and I am so happy he is back at home now and can play again like before.”

Reflecting on the experience, Mrs Nzima urges others to learn CPR, underscoring its importance in emergencies. The family expresses gratitude to everyone involved in Sekani’s care, recognising the collaborative efforts that led to his full recovery.

Miracle at Home: Mother's CPR Save Toddler from Near-Drowning Tragedy
Photo Cred: Mrs Nzima and Sekani | Supplied

In light of this incident, Netcare 911 spokeswoman Sarah Kekana provides essential drowning prevention tips. These include learning life-saving skills, being prepared for emergencies, fencing pools, and water storage areas, and staying vigilant around water bodies.

“Drownings can happen at any time of year, and in South Africa, we see a marked increase during the summer months.”

Prevent drowning tragedies with these practical tips:

  • Learn life-saving skills, including the basics of swimming and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  • Know who to call in an emergency. Be prepared for any medical emergency with Netcare 911 on 082 911 and download the Netcare App, which includes Netcare 911 emergency call and geolocation functions and a 60-second callback option.
  • Fence ponds, pools and water storage: Install a four-sided isolation fence at least 1.2m high with a self-closing and self-latching gate to control access to bodies of water.
  • Be on the lookout. Drownings happen quickly and quietly. Never leave children to supervise each other, a responsible adult must always watch out for children near a pool, Jacuzzi or natural body of water.
  • Stay within arm’s length of children under four around water.
  • Don’t drink or be distracted by work, phone calls, technology, or anything else that may absorb your attention when watching children.
  • Fit a pool net immediately after swimming and replace it every time.
  • Don’t rely on armbands, floating toys, inner tubes, or devices to keep children safe.
  • Teach children to swim, but never leave them unsupervised around water.
  • Consider installing alarms. Various water alarms, such as a floating pool alarm or external security beams, can be installed to add to the precautions of fencing and supervision.
  • Beware of drains. Children must be kept away from pool or Jacuzzi drains as hair or limbs could become trapped in the suction.

Sources: Netcare 
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