Our house was situated in a beautiful new suburb in the south of Johannesburg. From the front windows we looked up into a large rocky hill or koppie on which little grew apart from aloes, veld grass and the odd flat topped thorn tree. Rock rabbits (Rock Hyrax (Procavia capensis)), commonly known as dassies sunned themselves on the rocks. They resembled very large guinea pigs.
Many of the children in the area were of primary school age and roamed the streets in a gang. They played in the veldt, they played in each other’s houses and all summer they swam in our pool. Our children were never short of company.
The more children there are, the more accidents are inclined to happen, and we had many tales of horror. Edward walked in front of a swing and needed stitches in his head. Nikki slipped on rock in a stream and required stitches above her eyebrow. Edward and one of the other boys set the veldt on fire and we had to call the fire brigade, but luckily nobody was hurt. Abigail broke her elbow falling off Edward’s skateboard.
But the most serious accident was Edward’s broken leg. The children were all riding their bikes around the quiet roads. Edward, although one of the youngest, was speeding on ahead, wobbling all over the road, straight into an on-coming car. The unfortunate driver was the mother of one of the other children, so she came straight to fetch me.
I could see at once that Edward’s tibia was broken, so I carried him indoors and phoned the doctor for advice. He directed me to the nearest hospital and said he would meet me there.
By now the poor boy was in a lot of pain, so it was necessary to get him x-rayed as quickly as possible. Once done, for the leg to be set and plastered, I had to take Edward to another hospital in a part of the city to which I had never driven. It was well before the days of mobile phones, so I had to rely on the neighbours at home to look after my girls and inform Michael.
After a couple of days I took him back for follow-up x-rays and was shocked at what I saw. The broken bones did not line up. When I queried this with the surgeon, he pompously told me, ‘With all due respect, Madam, I am the expert.’
Duly subdued, I took Edward home. But I showed the x-rays to a friend who agreed with me. This led me on to get a second opinion. The second doctor was horrified and sent us for another set of x-rays. By this time the healing process was taking effect and calcification had started. Poor Edward had to be admitted to hospital for the leg to be re-broken and set correctly.
He was soon speeding around the house on his crutches, back to his normal busy little life, using a knitting needle to scratch the itchy leg. And when the plaster came off we were amused to see that the tropical jungle climate under the plaster had resulted in one really hairy leg.