As we mark this year’s World Trauma Day on 17 October, it is reassuring to know that the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town continues to attract international recognition as a centre of medical excellence, particularly when it comes to treating young children afflicted by trauma.

Dedicated exclusively to treating children, the Hospital is the largest stand-alone tertiary hospital in sub-Saharan Africa. It also incorporates Southern Africa’s only paediatric Emergency Centre. Every year, the centre treats over 45 000 children and on average, its specialist teams carry out 24 surgeries a day.

In 2018, the Children’s Hospital Trust (CHT) responded to this reality by launching a fundraising campaign called Leave Your Mark on Life. This campaign aims to raise funds for specific projects and programmes; in particular the upgrade and expansion of the Emergency Centre which comes at a cost of R 122 million.

Behind these statistics lies a wealth of compelling human stories involving traumatised children and their families. Take, for example, the case of eight-month-old Zara Isaacs, who was rushed to the Emergency Centre with second degree burns after pulling a kettle over herself while exploring the kitchen in a walker ring.

As Zara’s mother, Rezaan Isaacs, recalls: “Our first choice was the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. We knew we’d get the care we needed immediately without having to wait to be seen at our local clinic.” Even in the heat of the moment, Rezaan made the best possible decision.

The Emergency Centre is the first port of call for families who need immediate medical care, like Zara’s. Within minutes of arriving at the Emergency Centre’s Trauma Unit, Zara’s treatment began in earnest. Once stabilised, she was transferred to the Burns Unit – the only specialised paediatric unit in Africa which is recognised as the best in the world.

While she was in the Hospital, Rezaan and her family began to get to know the doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and other medical staff at the Hospital.

“When you’re here for such a long time, you build relationships with the staff,” says Rezaan. “I like it here. The staff are passionate about what they do. There’s always someone to help and they know Zara well,” she says, with a smile.

After two weeks of treatment Zara was discharged but needs to visit the Hospital for regular check-ups for the next two months until fully recovered.

The Burns Unit works under the leadership of Dr Gary Dos Passos. Reflecting on the factors underpinning the unit’s world-class status, Dr Dos Passos says: “Our greatest strength lies in the depth and breadth of our expertise. When treating children like Zara, we apply a holistic approach to care management that brings together specialists from a broad range of disciplines. Our team includes medical experts, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and aromatherapists as well as experts in art and cultural therapy.”

Chantel Cooper of the Children’s Hospital Trust says, ‘Like Zara and her family, the Emergency Centre is an entry point for many families and the start of their journey through the Hospital. The Hospital staff work hard to ensure that the children receive the best care possible and families receive the support they need.  Through the support of donors, the Children’s Hospital Trust is able to ensure that the Hospital and the staff have what they need to provide critical health care.

The CHT is a non-profit organisation established in 1994 to raise funds for specific programmes and projects which help advance child healthcare through the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. Every cent of donations raised go directly to the identified projects – including the Hospital’s world-beating Burns Unit.

If you wish to support the project and help the Hospital and medical staff continue to offer the best possible care to patients, click here.