The High Court in Pretoria has appointed a Pretoria advocate to represent a former guesthouse manager who is claiming over R5.1 million from the anaesthesiologist who penetrated her spine while treating her for headaches, resulting in partial tetraplegia.
Judge Tintswalo Makhubele last week granted an order appointing a local advocate to act as curator to conduct the medical negligence claim of Salome Janse van Rensburg, 42, arising from the damage to her spinal cord five years ago and to negotiate and finalise settlement proceedings.
Van Rensburg, who used to run a guesthouse for her aunt and had plans to open her own business, instituted a damages claim against anaesthesiologist and pain management specialist Dr Russel Raath after a botched pain relief procedure at a Pretoria day clinic in January 2013, during which a needle penetrated and permanently damaged her spinal cord.
Dr Raath initially denied any negligence or breaching his legal duty of care, but later conceded liability for Van Rensburg’s damages, of which the amount still has to be determined.
Van Rensburg was screaming with pain, her whole body was temporarily paralysed and she lost all bladder and bowel function after she woke up following the “minor” procedure, which she said was never fully explained to her.
She alleged in court papers Dr Raath merely prescribed pain medication and she was discharged after a nurse told her they should not phone the doctor again and he was not available to talk to her.
Her parents rushed her to hospital, where she was told that she might not walk again and she ended up in another hospital for rehabilitation.
Although her condition improved to some extent, she will never completely recover and will never be able to work again.
The incident left Van Rensburg an incomplete tetraplegic suffering from even worse head and neck pain than before.
She has no sensation in her body, cannot write because she has no control in her hands, has problems with her memory and speech and battles to walk and perform everyday tasks because of decreased strength in her arms and legs.
She was artistic and used to paint, play piano, make jewellery and dance before the incident but had to stop working and can now not even perform ordinary household chores.
According to medical reports her already existing psychiatric and medical problems, which included depression, anxiety and epilepsy, worsened after the incident and she at one stage tried to commit suicide.