Tuesday, November 20, 2007

it is difficult to cut a head off with a panga

i have decided to break from my series to quickly blog about a recent patient.

i now know it is difficult to cut a head off with a panga. it is not something i wanted to know. it is most assuredly not something i wanted to find out the way i did.

i was called to theater only after she had been put to sleep. the plastic surgeon wanted me to attend to some of her many wounds while he pieced together the face. i don't think i am easily shocked, but i was. she was about 60. she had been attacked in her house by a group of men wielding (and swinging) pangas. she was transfered to our hospital where the plastic surgeon took her to theater. he then called me.

i walked in. the right side of her face had multiple slashes. the angle of attack was slanted downwards. the side of her face had been sliced off in thin slivers like a piece of roast beef. a piece of the mastoid process had been sliced off. the layers lay loose, attached only at the lower neck. i assume these were the first wounds inflicted. she must have fallen forward then. this i know because the next wound was in the posterior aspect of the upper arm. the triceps was completely transected. the humerus itself had a deep gash in it. i suspect the assailant would have had difficulty removing the panga from the humerus, the wound was so deep. by this stage the woman must have been face down...defeated. the next wound was over the right scapula. the scapula was cut right through. there were two separate pieces with all the muscles transected as well. the force mustered to deliver this blow must have been emense.

i quickly realized that an orthopod would be a better bet for the patient than me. we called one. he scrubbed up and went to work as the plastic surgeon pieced together the jigsaw (read panga) puzzle that was her face.

and her crime? she was white. yes, she was simply the victim of a racial hate crime.

i remain in shock.

20 comments:

amanzimtoti said...

That is truly shocking.

rlbates said...

That is something no one should ever have to learn. So very sorry for all involved.

make mine trauma said...

Hate crimes seem always to be the most vicious no matter who the target. It is hard to imagine anyone capable of such mayhem

Roer said...

Poor old girl. No one should have to suffer like that. Not even animals get butchered this way. I'm starting to think doctors need more prayer than anyone.

Lynda said...

How absolutely awful - it is unbelievable. I so, so hope the patient is okay - but sadly she (and nobody who knows her) will ever really be okay again. She'll be in my prayers. Did the attack even make the newspaper?

Buckeye Surgeon said...

Awful.

Bongi said...

make mine trauma, i agree. however, there is a uniquely south african slant here. i didn't go into it because this blog is primarily not a political blog. however, here the lines blur slightly, so i'll mention it. our great and mightl president some time ago decreed that racism is defined when whites discriminate against blacks. the other way round, therefore by definition, can't be termed racism. you say 'no matter who the target', but in our country such activity against whites is not frowned on so much. it most definitely won't be labeled as a race crime (except maybe in some obscure blog by a surgeon somewhere). in fact it would be considered racist to say it was motivated by race. there is so much more to this. in zimbabwe the white farmers were driven from their land. in south africa they are murdered, almost on a daily basis. there is even a term for it, it is so common. when the government 'investigated', their official finding was pretty much that the farmers were asking for it and nothing was done. they are, after all white. in this country it does very much matter who the target is.

lynda, this might be difficult to understand, but i do not read newspapers. i find them too traumatic. but this would not get a big mention in the main papers. too common and the victim is white.

Sid Schwab said...

My part of the world depresses nearly more than I can take. Were I in yours, I'm sure I couldn't stand it.

Bongi said...

sid, the lowveld is so beautiful, it gets under your skin and you fall in love with it. true some things depress, but many others uplift!! (just remember to lock the door and set the alarm)

Anonymous said...

Bongi, I would like to thank you for your courage to speak up and mention the facts which many people (of all races) ignore and which millions of foreigners don’t believe… I know many things which the South African government is secretly planning and when I speak out people are so surprised that they don’t believe… The government plans 10 years ahead so actions taken now will only have effect much later… Key people like Pres. Thabo Mbeki and former Pres. Nelson Mandela are 33 degree freemasons and part of a much bigger plan than what we realize… Pres. Mbeki has already done his part which Zuma will carry out… South Africa will become like the rest of Africa and it will not be pleasant to live on that continent, not for anyone! White people will be exterminated, slowly but surely. That is a fact! The Fox.

Prudence said...

"and her crime? she was white. yes, she was simply the victim of a racial hate crime."

--- I live in a place where it is not so common, as perhaps in your country or in the U.S. I have to admit I do not really understand the need to discriminate. But, of course, maybe cultural difference is the factor. And, of course, history. But I still pity the woman, even if in your country, what happened to her may not be considered a racial hate crime.

And thanks to this post, now I know what a panga is. I don't know how to pronounce that. But we have a word like that in our Filipino language that means "jaw". :-)

Bongi said...

i see that this post has caused quite a stir on the internet. i just want to clarify a point or two.
firstly this is not a political blog. this was something i saw and was affected by. the people who use this for whatever political ideology and argument, you may just be missing the point. to see a 60 year old women so severely injured is more about the personal drama. somehow face wounds are also more of a violation of the victim's humanity. i have seen some pretty shocking things, but this was definitely way up there.
secondly, this was a race crime. that is all. in medical terms, it would fall into the category of overkill, indicating an emotional motivation. violent crimes are the order of the day in south africa and are perpetrated against people of all ages and race, but the overkill aspect is slightly more rare. truth be told, i am against all violent crime, no matter who the perpetrator and who the victim. i have seen pretty much all of it and treated people from all sides (criminals and the innocent) and all races. my patients always get the best i can offer them. always.

so, the point i'm trying to make is, if you want to read a medical blog, stick around. if you want to use this blog for whatever political or conspiracy theory, i think you will find most of the posts somewhat disappointing.

enrico said...

Racial crimes are despicable, but one can sometimes dispassionately see where--however psychotic and immoral--the root cause may come from, historically, politically, in the hopes of making some screwed up sense of things.

However, crimes against the helpless and defenseless, such as this elderly woman or a wheelchair bound person or the like, are the ones that sicken me to the core. Like dogs, these men need to run in a pack to feel superior, and like dogs, they will eventually be put down in some form or fashion.

Anonymous said...

Hmm surely it beggars belief what the elderly have to under go but did anyone rule out all the other causes of this barbaric and cowardly act?

Anonymous said...

Bongi, on the same day that your patient was attacked there was another attack in Mpumalanga - in Nelspruit, an elderly couple was attacked. The man was hacked with a panga and the woman was beaten repeatedly with a chain while she lay in bed. Her assailant then tried to rape her. They were both in their 70's. She is handicapped. They were white and lived on a farm. The man died in hospital a few days later. Nothing was stolen from them.

Bongi said...

anon. yes, i know about that case. a friend of mine was the treating surgeon. however, although that case made me think about my patient, it was a different incident.

Michelle said...

I find it very interesting that she was attacked because she was white. I spent two months in hyper-rural Mpumalanga (Utha, close to Hluvukani, about an hr away from Acornhoek). Admittedly I was in a rural vs. urban situation, and everyone in the area knew I and my friends were Americans teaching in the schools and building libraries and such- so of course I probably present an atypical scenario. But I was welcomed by most everyone, and I certainly never felt slighted as a white person. Seen as a bit odd due to my Western, post-feminism and "empowered" female traits, yes... but never judged because I was white. As far as I could tell, of course.

Bongi said...

michelle, thank you for your comment. it made me realise one possible reason that some people struggle to believe this story and at the same time why it has been published on some blogs that tend towards the right wing.

firstly this did happen, and does happen. as anonymous above said, there was a similar incident close to nelspruit at about the time of this post. farm murders are common in south africa and are race related. recently there was an attack on tanzanian diplomats in pretoria. the attackers savaged them badly but let them live. one of the victims said the attackers had actually said they could live because they are not white. had they been white....

but, having just stated the facts, by no means are all blacks in this country out to kill whites. if that is how you read the story, that is not true. rural areas are usually safe and when there are criminal elements moving through, everyone is a target, black and white. having spent some time in this country, you should know you can't group all people together just by colour. blacks are not all the same. those out to kill whites are in the minority by far, but they are there and do kill whites because they are white. the old stereotype of the racist south african whites is also not true, although you do get them. this country is much more complex. as i once said, not unlike an onion and an ogre, this country has layers.

Anonymous said...
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SoldatulDac88 said...

well, look at this... http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8602347.stm

Captain Myburgh said: "Mr Terre'Blanche's body was found on the bed with facial and head injuries. There was a panga on him and knobkerrie next to the bed.

RIP Mr. Eugene Terre'blanche.