Former Mrs Chatsworth sues hospital and doctor for negligence

The scars that Nivera Maharaj now has to live with.

Former Mrs Chatsworth, Nivera Maharaj has spoken out about her traumatic experience at Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital which has left her scarred, physically and emotionally.

While the hospital and the neurosurgeon are facing charges of negligence and is being sued for R390 774, 35, Maharaj is still questioning the circumstances that led to the severe burn on her upper back and whether the amount will suffice for her future medical expenses. The life-changing ordeal unfolded in December 2014 when Maharaj visited the hospital to undergo a cervical discectomy after suffering from a C4/5 disc prolapse.

Maharaj who attempted to hold back her tears during an emotional interview with this newspaper, said, “When I came out of theatre after my operation, I felt severe pain on my upper back. I had a neck brace and could not move my neck so I asked the nurses and the doctor to check what was wrong with my back. I was told it was a blister. I was also informed by the doctor that there is nothing to worry about. The pain became unbearable so I asked for a dermatologist to assess the condition of my back and I was told again that it was a blister and may be due to an allergic reaction or a reaction towards medication. He then instructed the nurse to burst the bubbles that were visible on my back,” she explained.

“When my family came to visit me, I asked my fiancé to check my back. He was shocked and he told me it was a severe burn. I questioned the doctor about how my back was burnt because I underwent an operation on the front of my neck. Only then was I informed that while I was in theatre undergoing the operation, a heated sandbag was placed under my neck for neck extension during surgery. This was confirmed by the neurosurgeon. My question is that, ‘if a heated sandbag was placed under my neck then how did my back get burnt?’ Furthermore, the person putting the sandbag and removing it would have felt that it was very hot,” claimed the mother.

“The doctor said that he had no knowledge of which nurse placed the sandbag in a heater or autoclave and he agreed to pay for the flamazene dressings on my back and the extended stay without admission of liability, as stated in his letter, however, that isn’t enough. That will not take away my pain, future suffering and all my other costs that came out of my pocket. Furthermore, I am now being billed by the plastic surgeon who had attended to my dressings,” Maharaj added. The Moorton mother said that she has children who need her attention and because of the unfortunate circumstances, she is unable to give them her full attention.

Nivera Maharaj was crowned Mrs Chatsworth in 2013.

Nivera Maharaj was crowned Mrs Chatsworth in 2013.

“I was surprised when the doctor told the nurse to burst the bubbles on my back as this is not the way to treat a severe burn. They did not take my pain into consideration and could have told me initially that I was burnt. Although this matter is being dealt with at the Regional Court, this won’t take away the pain and suffering that I face on a daily basis. I do not know how long my back will take to heal or how much it will cost for future medical treatment. As the days go by, I am becoming disabled, eg exercising, walking, sleeping, etc is very painful. My title as Mrs Chatsworth 2013 gave me the strength, courage and self-esteem during my reign as I was able to put smiles on many children’s and women’s faces. From 2013 I took it upon myself to assist with a charity drive for the occupational therapy department at RK Khan Hospital. This drive entailed giving gifts to children. I managed to do it in 2014 however in 2015 I could not pursue my dream because I was unfit,” she concluded.

If you would like to offer any advice or assistance to Maharaj, contact her on 084-271-3701. General manager of Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital, Dr Augusta Dorning, said, “The case of Ms Nivera Maharaj is the subject matter of an action before the Regional Court. As the matter is before a court it would be inappropriate for Netcare to comment on the case.”

Regional communications manager of National Prosecuting Authority KZN, Natasha Kara, said, “This is to confirm that I received this query which is receiving our urgent attention. I have forwarded the query to the chief prosecutor at the Durban Magistrates court and I will comment as soon as we have a response.”

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Nikita Chiniah

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